Sunday, 3 August 2014

Palestine - Time for local religious leaders to show some leadership

I have found the pictures coming out of Gaza ever more disturbing. I don't believe that any decent person cannot be moved by pictures of injured and dead children and babies. Any parent must surely feel some pang of sympathy for the parents of those who we see the pictures of. It seems that many are seeking to play a blame game, but the truth is that for such terrible scenes to occur, we are all in some ways damaged and in some ways to blame for it. Those who don't care for those hurt, maybe the damage is just too great. The vast majority of those involved in this struggle are Jews, Muslims or Christians. All of these religions believe in the same God and most of the customs, laws and practices are similar and have common roots. All largely recognise the same list of prophets and the teachings. None of these great Religions recognises slaughter of the innocent people as acceptable ways to wage war. We watch the images and feel impotent. We feel as if it is all a long way away from us.

When we feel like this, we are failing ourselves. We are all part of the human family and when we stand by and watch any member of our family suffer, we are primarily failing ourselves. The Leadership of both Israel and the Palestinian people are failing their people, but they are also failing the whole human family by letting the situation continue. When they say "We've tried but it is pointless", they are in effect saying "I am not up to the job of leading my people". They portray themselves as tough leaders, but in fact they are the weakest of all types of leaders, because they lack the moral courage to reach out and lead their people though difficult decisions which some of their citizens will object to. One day, it may be today, it may be tomorrow or it may be in a thousand years time, we will finally get decent leaders of both the Palestinian people and the Isreali people. These leaders will broker a compromise, which will allow these peoples to live in peace, side by side. Both sides will have to agree to some things which their hard line supporters will call a betrayal. Once these compromises have been accepted, only then will both peoples be able to move forward.

It's not for a blogger in Mill Hill to even start to tell people at war what compromises they should make and what sins they should forgive, but short of one side annihalating the other (something which sadly some hardliners on both sides seem to think is a solution) any sane person will accept that there will have to be compromise.

In the London Borough of Barnet, we have very good community relationships. I do however believe that on the issue of Palestine and Gaza we need to do more. We need a proper inter faith engagement and I would like to see some joint prayer services where people from all religious communities come together to pray for peace. I'd even urge local athiests to participate, as they are part of our human family. Whether or not you believe in the power of prayer, it is important to recognise the power of communities coming together in respect for each others community and traditions. There really should be far more that unites people of good will than divides us. The more cynical will say "What can a few people getting together in Barnet possibly do to change the situation in Gaza?". Well I happen to believe that every journey starts with one small step. Recognising that we are all brothers and sisters is the first step of that journey. So I call on our local Imams, Rabbi's and Priests to get together and see if here in Barnet we can so a seed that will be that first step on the road to change.

I don't believe that anyone who has read scriptures, be they Jewish, Christian or Muslim can believe that what we are seeing in Gaza is Gods will. I once discussed the Jewish philosophy of an Eye for an Eye with a local rabbi. He explained that this was not a call for revenge. It was a call for a moderation of revenge. At the time, there were huge feuds and clans were wiping each other out with ever more bloodthirsty revenges. The teaching was one that any revenge must be equitable. If someone kills our brother or sister, we should not seek to wipe their whole family out as revenge. I spoke to a local Imam who explained to me that historically Muslims were the one people who did not persecute the Jewish people and how until recently the communities in the Middle East lived in peace and harmony. Muslims are required to treat people of "The Book" with respect. 

The time has come for the local leaders of all our respective religions to come together and remind their congregations of the teachings of peace which are central to their beliefs. If people of faith and goodwill on  both sides reminded themselves of the fundamental teachings they follow, I cannot believe that they would support the seemingly endless situation where both sides want to indiscriminately kill each other.

The arguments that "We are only doing this because the other side are doing that" are not the arguments that people of goodwill should ever accept. We mistakenly see militaristic ruthless leaders as "Strong men". They are nothing of the sort. People like Gandhi and Martin Luther King are real examples of strong leaders. Both knew where their path was likely to end, but both addvocated peaceful resolution of problems. These are the people we should be looking to as an example. Lets end the blame game, stop the fnger pointing and start working together to make the lives of the ordinary people on the ground better.

So my plea to our local religious leaders is to come together and start to unite our communities. This blog will support you as best we can in any efforts you can make to spread peace and reconciliation. It isn't much but it is all I can do.

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