You cannot but be angry when you hear of the recent shootings of the Israeli army at the border of Gaza and Israel. Many thousands of people were injured and over 60 people died. The incident happened, as you will know, as Israel was marking the 70thyear of the establishment of the state of Israel. The soldiers stopped the protestors at the fence and fired indiscriminately into the crowds. It is not permissible for soldiers to do this, it is not permissible for army commanders or governments to give that instruction to fire into crowds of unarmed protestors. The statistics are stark – over 60 people dead and many thousands injured – on the other side, no Israeli soldiers killed or injured.
Similar protests like Bloody Sunday (1972), the Sharpeville Massacre (1960), the protests at the Winter Palace in Russia (1905) ended in the same way – these are all historical incidents where soldiers and their commanders fired on innocent and unarmed civilians. They were wrong then and this is wrong now.
It’s no doubt that finding a solution, a two state solution, is proving very difficult in Palestine. But what is true is that while one people has found a homeland many others live in camps and in situations of great poverty on the West bank and in the Gaza strip. Even when the principle of sharing the land has been conceded.
The Gaza strip is a hotspot of tension for the last 20 years with many incidents of violence and destruction. Israel controls Gaza and although, not strictly speaking occupying Gaza, it controls access to it by air and land – it is in a kind of lock down situation. It also controls its water and electricity. No one is allowed entry to Israel for work and only a trickle for medical help. Unemployment is very high perhaps between 40 & 60% of the population. This 20 year period has witnessed many incursions to Gaza with the loss of many lives.
The people of these lands of Israel or Palestine are Muslim, Jewish and Christian. They trace their religious inheritance to a common root, to Abraham. They all revere and look to the figure of Abraham. God they, believe revealed and showed himself to Abraham and Abraham becomes the man of faith who is promised to be the father of many people, as many as the stars in heaven and as the grains of sand on the seashore. All the religions of the great Abrahamic tradition stem from him – it is a common inheritance. We are all the children of Abraham and its from this tradition we all take our religious life.
All believe in a God of love. All believe in acting morally according to commands of love. All believe that God cares about us, looks after us wants the best for us. All have a holy book to follow, all have a clear idea of God, all have their prayers to say.
It’s not unthinkable that in some ways the solution to the problem lies here in the great Abrahamic tradition and the great Abrahamic religions. Its these who can get people to put down their arms, its these who can find ways to resolve differences and its these that can surely find a way forward.
However, we also know just as these can be unifying forces, so they can be divisive forces. Each on their own ways have fought for dominance and control over these lands.
But their better angels, their long traditions, their deep force for good can be the solution.
The land even in the time of Moses, whom we hear of in the first reading was not their own, but instead belonged to the Cannanites, even then it was disputed and again peoples were displaced. Moses words speak of sharing the land, not owning it, enjoying it and prospering in it – surely a desire to be built on today.
Today one of these Abrahamic traditions, our own, marks the feast of the Trinity. What we have come to know and believe about God. It is a deep mystery that tells us how God acts is how he is. How he acts we come to know his inner life.
Our faith tells us that God is a God of love and that every single thing about love emanates from him. Peaceful thoughts, reconciliation, forgiveness, justice, all these things come from him. Our faith tells us, as we hear in the letter to the Romans, that we have a share in that great tradition, we don’t own it, we and all are allowed to be called children of God and find ourselves to be rich inheritors of a deep and precious religious tradition. We don’t own it or monopolise it, we are simply sharers in it.
There can be no solution and peace without love, forgiveness and reconciliation. If you try to crush opposition or kill and maim, you may win in the short term but you won’t win in the long term, you will reap what you sow
In many ways the land of Israel is a blessed land in which many religions are at home and have planted their roots in its soil. But it has been a land in which much blood and tears have been spilled. It is a land in which many have been displaced. Today that displacement is the lot of many.
Where fear is there will be no love. Where there is suspicions there can be no love. Where there is hatred there will be no love.
The land of the Cannanites was the place which the nomad Abrham came to and was promised a land and people as men as the stars of heaven and as many as the grains of sand on the sea shore. Its in the hands of the children of Abraham to make it a land of peace and love rather than a land in which innocent men and women and children fall down dead having been shot or bombed.