In the past several days, peace activists in Boston, Atlanta, here in downtown Carbondale, and elsewhere have gathered to mourn and pray for peace, and to protest the killing of more than a thousand Palestinians, the bombing of a hospital, not to mention the blockading of supplies and forced settlement of Palestinian lands. These actions for peace by my friends here in the U.S. give me hope in the face of the pain and violence I see in the news.
After working in a tiny town in the outskirts of Atlanta called Clarkston, the location of resettlement of refugees from around the world in the mid-’90s, for the non-profit organization CDF, I learned and still believe that building connections across faith, cultural, and political divides is the only way to heal and repair long-term conflicts.
While there, I attended meetings of the Clarkston Interfaith group– a group comprised of people from many faiths and political backgrounds. We would sit together, talk, and learn about each other’s traditions and beliefs. As a result, I have many friends with varying political and faith perspectives, and friends on both sides of the conflict. The escalating violence in Gaza and the West Bank undertaken by the Israeli army is very painful for me to see. I personally met Israeli soldiers when I traveled there, and they were very kind, decent people.
Escalation of violence in Israel is not a productive course, and my support for a government that continues to betray the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights in spite of calls for peace by Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is admittedly difficult to defend. The State of Israel is losing support internationally, as was made obvious by the mass protests last weekend in the streets of Paris, where protesters threw tarmac at French police.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was a great example of people bridging a seemingly impossible historic chasm of oppression, abuse through conversation and shared experience. While I continue to support the State of Israel, I cannot support many of its actions: the blockading of necessary resources from Palestinian families, forced settlement of Palestinian lands, construction of walls and transportation checkpoints, and the killing of civilians and children in response to Hamas’s aggression.
The way I see it, peace can be reached in this conflict if both sides are willing to meet with each other as equals in an environment of mutual respect and discuss conditions of a long-term ceasefire. That is the only way I’ve seen such conflicts resolved. It must be deliberate, it must be reasoned, and it must be non-violent. I pray that this will be possible, because I do not want to see another person die.