Dear Friends of House of Hope,
Again Jerusalem suffers. Sadness is everywhere, and people are hopeless. Prophets in the Holy Land faced persecution and death hey called for truth, justice and kindness for their neighbors. What can anyone do?
The answer is always love.
At the center of nonviolent resistance stands the principle of love. Even Jesus Christ himself instructed us to “love your enemy”. And it was Saint John who said: “Let us love one another; for love is God and everyone that loves is born of God and knows God”. 1 John 4:7
But how do we choose love in the face of deep injustice, like the brutal realities of the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict? Or in the face of challenges outside of the Holy Land, where mankind is hostile towards mankind? In many nations in the world, those in power decide the destinies of others, and politicians gamble with our souls everyday for a cheap price. For Palestinians, this price has been seventy years of occupation, from Catastrophe (Nakba) to Defeat (Naksa), to displacement, refugee camps, home demolitions and jail. In the face of this searing injustice, Palestinian youth, the new generation, ask difficult questions: “If the human rights and international laws, treaties and agreements fail, what will happen? Will we be pushed out of our homes? What should we do? How do we respond?”
For Palestinian youth, and all oppressed people throughout the world and anyone fighting for human dignity, the answer is love. We must not succumb to the temptation of hate. When we allow the spark of revenge in our souls to flame up in hate towards people who are harming us, we must follow Jesus’ advice: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28.
This is not always the easiest path. When we refuse to suffer for righteousness and choose to follow the path of comfort rather than conviction, or violence rather than love, we hear Jesus say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10 We must recapture the gospel glow of the early Christians, who were nonconformists in the truest sense of the word and did not blindly accept the opinion of the majority.
All people who chose to respond to war, injustice or suffering with love must then ask themselves one question: who is their neighbor who they will love as themself? Let’s look to the story of the Good Samaritan to get our answer.
“One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:25-29
In modern times, that question is asked by White and Black people; Jews and Gentile; Palestinians and Israelis; Americans and Russians; the tough hearted and tenderhearted. We fail to see each other as fellow human beings molded in the same divine image of God. Let’s look back to Luke to read who Jesus said is our neighbor.
Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” Luke 30:37
The Good Samaritan saw the wounded man as human being first, and he risked his life to save a brother. We so often ask, what will happen to my job, my prestige, or my status if I take a stand in this issue, if I show compassion or mercy like the Good Samaritan did? Will my life be threatened or will I be hated?
A true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. I advise anyone who reads my monthly column to be a neighbor to your brothers and sisters at House of Hope, as we will always be yours. Stand with us in this most difficult time in Jerusalem and its suburbs. Love is action, don’t leave us alone.
Salam, peace, shalom,
Milad Vosgueritchian, co-founder and director at House of Hope