Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. -- Matthew 5:9
Beloved of God,
I greet you in the name of our Savior, Jesus, who lived, died, and is resurrected for the sake of reconciliation and peace. Last Saturday, as many Jews had just observed the Jewish festival of Sukkot, Hamas launched thousands of rockets into Israel, killing more than 900 individuals and injuring thousands more. The carnage was exacerbated as individuals were taken hostage, brutally attacked and terrorized. This reprehensible act was wrought by air, land, and sea, harming many innocent civilians, including women and children. In response to this violence, Israel declared war against Hamas.
The world rose to condemn these heinous acts, as it should. There simply is no justification for such loss of life.
And the full truth requires an acknowledgment of the multi-faceted issues and longstanding conflicts in this region. The conflict is deeply rooted in a complex web of historical, political, social, and territorial issues. There has been aggression, violence, and bloodshed at the hands of both Israel and Palestine. Both claim rightful ownership of common land. Palestinians argue against what they perceive as Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, including the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel asserts that Hamas poses a security threat to them, including ongoing rocket attacks and suicide bombings. They also believe the disputed lands to be theirs without question or need for compromise. Both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital, resulting in a major point of contention. Further, religious sites such as the Western Wall and the Al-Aqsa Mosque continue to be a source of debate and protest.
Multiple administrations have worked tirelessly for a two-state solution, one Israeli and one Palestinian, with neither side being willing to compromise to bring this plan to fruition. That unwillingness has cost countless lives and frustrated efforts for peace since World War I. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., very aptly stated, “It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it.”
We all weep with the families who have lost loved ones, both Israeli and Palestinian, and we pray for peace.
And we must weep for those around the world who are also living through war, prolonged violence, and terrorism. As we have been called to pray for the conflicts between Israel and Palestine, Ukraine and Russia, there are myriad armed conflicts in the world right now. According to Global Citizen, over 2 billion people currently reside in conflict-affected areas. These areas include Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, and Mexico. Innocent lives are being lost, individuals are being dispossessed of their homelands, hunger is leading to unbelievable atrocities and rape is regularly being used as a weapon of war. I lament that we seem to call attention to pain in some parts of our world while ignoring the suffering and devastation in other parts. While God detests violence anywhere, God holds all life sacred everywhere.
There is not a single mainstream religious tradition founded upon the notion of hate, domination, or hierarchies of human worth. All those who believe in peace and the right for every human being to reach their highest potential must work together for an end to violence of any kind. The World Council of Churches invites all religious communities to embrace an embodied ecumenism that will “never seek to divide or conquer, to exploit or humiliate, to overwhelm by violence or enforce unity, nor to collude anymore with the inequalities of the world.” I join them in rejecting politics shaped by deepened individualism, dangerous nationalism or increasing militarism.
The United Methodist Book of Resolutions is clear on this subject. It states, "Peace is not simply the absence of war, a nuclear statement or combination of uneasy ceasefires. It is that emerging dynamic reality envisioned by prophets where spears and swords give way to implements of peace; where historic antagonists dwell together in trust; and where righteousness and justice prevail. As the children of God, we believe this prophetic vision is not just a dream or a passive prayer; rather, it is our calling. We are called to acts of mercy, peace and justice.
As Mother Teresa stated, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” May we remember our common bond, common calling, and common Creator and may we be willing to sacrifice for peace.
Blessings and peace,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
Peninsula-Delaware and Baltimore-Washington Conferences
The United Methodist Church