A problem shared: Linda Murgatroyd’s Thought for the week

‘Peace will only come if interpersonal relationships can be transformed.’

'Building trust is a particular challenge in the wake of so many centuries of persecution, but it is not impossible.' | Photo: by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

A few Friends from Wandsworth and Wimbledon met recently to share our responses to the conflict in Gaza. It had been much on our minds but, wary of causing unintentional offence or hurt, and not knowing quite what to say, most of us had avoided the subject. Trusting our worship-sharing process, however, it was good to share something personal.

While feeling powerless and pessimistic about the violence, hatred and pain that hangs over the Middle East, many of us had reached out to people who we thought might be affected. We were surprised at the strength of reaction. Even just a short email, card or phone call had been warmly received. It had been important not to make assumptions or take sides; often we didn’t know the person or their connections well, and it was a chance to deepen the acquaintance.

We had been impressed by the level of fear expressed by Jewish friends: fears for themselves and their communities here in Britain, as well as in Israel and elsewhere. There has been a big increase in antisemitism since October. This war has made life much more difficult for those in Israel, and for Jews elsewhere who do not support the current Israeli regime, in many different ways.

Many Muslims in Britain have also felt increasingly threatened. Those of us who expressed hopes for peace by attending marches or vigils, or in Meetings, have been made very welcome by that community; new acquaintances and friendships are being made. We had also been invigorated in spirit by attending these events, feeling less alone and more hopeful. Not everyone is able to attend a march or vigil but prayer, letter-writing, and supporting victims are also important.

We were reminded of the hatred that Palestinian farmers have had to live with all their lives from Jewish settler neighbours, and of the worsening daily violence, threats and restrictions that those in the West Bank have been living with, as well as those in Gaza. The contrast between life in Israeli communities and Palestinian ones is shocking.

Peace in the Middle East is clearly a long way off, and the conflict may well escalate further. Meanwhile, we reflected that the Earth is on fire, and wars are fuelling the acceleration of the environmental crisis of which the humanitarian crisis is a part. The violence needs to end, but a political solution seems a long way off. Peace will only come if interpersonal relationships can be transformed, as well as the systemic evil of the war industry. In the long term, forgiveness, compassion and cooperation are needed to care for the war-torn land and its inhabitants.

Building trust is a particular challenge in the wake of so many centuries of persecution, but it is not impossible. We can all contribute to this: listening to and befriending people, responding to ‘that of God’ in them. Every little helps; sharing and deep listening certainly helped some of us. But it does take time, so let’s not put it off any longer. Who will we reach out to today?

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