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Thoughts on the Middle East

Fr. John Chagnon

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It's hard to watch, sometimes, the endless fighting in the Middle East, two cultures with a hand on each other's throat and an unwillingness to let go. From a distance and the safety of these shores it seems unreal, senseless like two street gangs doing battle over the same dank street corner save for the advanced weapons.

One wonders, how many will have to die? When will two people looking at each other across the divide finally think to themselves "This is insanity, honor, country, people, everything distorted and the only thing real is the blood flowing out of our children." People long dead started it all and fresh bodies join them on an assembly line powered by grudge. Larger forces play the greater game but like everything else the pawns get brushed off the table. Young men pay for old men who can't forgive or forget and young women join their mothers in the black clothes of widows.

On the face of it there is no answer. Contemporary Arabic culture is steeped in hatred of Jews, those people whose very life affronts their sense of honor and whose survival calls to mind their ongoing defeat. Jews, with wounds still raw and bleeding from the Holocaust, vow "Never again" and fight to claim a land for themselves and the safety of borders as if the people who've lived there for centuries don't matter. Will the last Palestinian and the last Israeli left alive at least agree turn out the lights when they leave this world?

And here we are as Orthodox Christians, somewhere in between the apocalyptic fueled love for Israel from the right and calculated and oft manipulated Palestinian rage of the left. Somewhere in the middle trying to make sense of it all even as in our hearts we probably have already figured out that sense, at least in the world's understanding of it, may never come. The diplomats burn fuel trying to make it go away but the fire never stops.

Only one thing remains and that is prayer. Prayer not for one side or the other but prayer for peace, for hope, for wisdom, for that moment when somehow, somewhere, the Holy Spirit touches two people burning with anger and allows them to see the person in the body they are about to exterminate, the child of God under the uniform and say "Enough." Only our Lord will be able to heal the land of his wayward family, this struggle between the sons of Abraham and until that time comes we cannot forget to pray for that sad, hurting, chunk of the globe, engaging the spiritual forces and principalities which have woven themselves in and through every human experience in anticipation of the day when faith becomes sight.

In your mercy, Lord, let this day be soon.

Fr. John Chagnon is the priest at St. Elias Orthodox Church in Lacrosse, Wisconsin and editor of the Traveling Priest blog.

Read the entire article on the Traveling Priest blog (new window will open).

Posted: 13-Jan-2009



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