19 December 2012
idea-torial Jan / Feb 2013
“Pray not for Arab or Jew, for Palestinian or Israeli, but pray rather for ourselves, that we may not divide them in our prayers, but keep them both together in our hearts.” (Christian Aid)
Last month I stood, head covered, hands and face pressed up against the white stone of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. And I prayed for the only thing I thought it was right to pray for: peace. I prayed for peace over this beautiful, mysterious Holy Land; the subject of centuries of conflict and strife. And for a moment I felt an overwhelming sense of peace within myself – a few seconds of respite from the thoughts of deadlines and work and pressures and anxieties which constantly whir around my head.
But it was only for a moment.
Because peace seems ever elusive. Just a few days after I returned from my trip to Israel with Christian Aid, violence erupted yet again between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. It was the most deadly period of violence since Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which resulted in between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinian deaths and 13 Israeli deaths - four from friendly fire.
The story of Israel today is not yet one of peace. But for peace to reign there must be a recognition that there is more than one story. It was only through two sides coming to the table that a ceasefire could be brokered eight days after the violence began.
Inside the Holy Land are many stories; stories of Israeli Jews, Arab Muslims, Arab Christians, Messianic Jews, and many more. Among them are stories of unimaginable suffering. But found amid the suffering are stories of hope and stories of peace.
As we celebrate the birth of our Prince of Peace, this edition of idea tells some of those stories of peace and also of reconciliation. In this edition, you will find a story of how an organisation in Israel is enabling doctors to be messengers of peace amid the conflict. You will find honest reflections on post-conflict reconciliation in South Africa, Iraq and in Northern Ireland. You will find a story of how one army chaplain finds peace in the middle of war in Afghanistan. You will find stories of peace from those affected by gang crime. And you will find stories of how people have found peace in the midst of difficult and tragic circumstances.
As you celebrate this Christmas, may your heart be opened to new stories, and may you find peace.