The road to peace in the Middle East

Credit: Caritas/Katie Orlinsky

Joseph Cornelius Donnelly, Caritas Internationalis head of delegation at the UN

Where does the peace process begin – in which country in what ways and with whom? Such questions are constantly being asked everywhere around the world. From today in Jerusalem but already tomorrow in Kathmandu. From fifty years ago in the Congo to last week in Libya. Seems nothing new under the sun, it just keeps coming around again.

From Tel Aviv to Jericho, Hebron to Ashkelon, Gaza to Galilee –  still seeking a different future for decent people looking to live their lives without incessant fear and vulnerability. Stories and statistics endless while the peace seems evasive.  Often this peace seems more illusion than possibility,  crisscrossing hopes and expectations from the four corners of our  world. Caritas members often journey in solidarity with the Holy Land – with Christians, Jews and Muslims, as well with Palestinians, Israelis, Jordanians and others.

There is complexity, diversity, contradiction and dysfunction. There is enormous frustration and difficulty, cynicism and burnout. But there still is more – and it is accessible. It’s another kind of hard deliberate work, notably getting at right relationships so the search for truth, justice, liberation and reconciliation actually makes steps into other ways of being, seeing, healing, building.

Rooted in Catholic Social Teaching, as Caritas members are in 165 countries and well beyond, you find from faith a different way forward. Instead of merely being “for” or “against” – we need to be more deeply, even objectively, “with” others, all God’s people in this land. As peace-builders we need to be real, concrete, engaging every kind of possible healthy human respectful relationship. We need get beyond the legions – legacies, legends and litigious machinations. As elsewhere, we easily get mired in details without directions.

At the heart of helping others find peace in the Holy Land, their homeland, is initiating, building, creating environments where transformation can honestly, if cautiously, take place. Newspapers fill us with stories, newsbytes, latest statistics. Often these facts can provoke or evoke. A name, a place, a link can facilitate an opening. Dynamic living networks are operative at every level of society – and countless people cross “borders” if you will everyday – in all kinds of productive ways. Frankly, it’s sometimes amazing. We need to be believers, engaging directly ourselves with patterns and alternative ways of being together.

If we would wish to promote healing, at any level, it must be unbearably utterly human. Unless we see the “other” and imagine ourselves walking with some measure of basic trust – we will not get there. Those we work to support through solidarity will not get there either. Beyond the millions and billions expended via deals, agreements and treaties – the greatest courage needs to renew our sense of belonging, of being part of a common humanity. This must be in real time, real places, real people.

While we can never diminish the suffering of others, we can walk so close as to see options, spaces, even graces – not seen, not imagined. Indeed, we must go where we imagine possibilities exist. They do – in sports, in music, in faith, in children, in sympathies, in economics, in sciences, in foods and being truly human with one another. It works. It’s operative every day, we deliberately see one another as being human, being made in the image and likeness of God. Every possible seed of peace is available to everyone of us every single day. It’s an extraordinary natural resource we generally fail to rely on consistently. We must reach in as much as reach out.

As believers, as Caritas colleagues, we can journey from the Old Testament to the New. We can pause in the deserts where the Psalms still echo strong, leading us to Christ’s Gospel call. We know the questions. We recognize the wounds. We see what fear can do. We need to more carefully re-imagine what peace can do. In our reading, searching, praying – we need to be sure to bring others at odds together instead of apart. We too need to lay down our lives to be integrally part of solutions instead of part of the problems.

If we can realize more emphatically God being with-us, our charity-in-action can enable our sisters and brothers in The Land to draw nearer to the well, to see the Lord giving water to the Samaritan woman. There is no affliction in us or this tortured land where Christ will not reconcile us.

This is our reality check. This is the daily ongoing deliberate hard work of lifetimes, getting moving onto paths to peace that can lead to life, that tear down mental and physical walls. It is as possible as it is difficult. It offers light from darkness if we dare go. It nurtures the common good and community if we dare not go alone. Imagine – should we fail to go!


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