As a staff, we have been reflecting on the current war in Gaza and the reactions of those in our communities, some who have been involved in reconciliation and some who have not. The last cycle of violence has affected our societies; some feel betrayed, some are depressed, and others feel their principles have been compromised. Some are expressing themselves with bitterness and hate for the other side. Both Israelis and Palestinians feel they have lost their joy and are questioning the future. When you listen to people you hear cynicism, distrust, and hopelessness and you see the increasing polarization of our two communities.
We are currently processing what is going on in our society. One of our staff members asked, how do we see our future? What is our hope? While it is good for us to evaluate our experiences, at the same time we need to remember that we are a people of hope and we need to look at how we can pass on this hope to the next generation. We cannot allow ourselves to sink into the bleakness in our societies. It reminds me of Walter Brueggemann’s call to us in his book Prophetic Imagination. He shares that “the task of prophetic imagination is to cut through the numbness, to penetrate the self-deception, so that the God of endings is confessed as Lord.”
The need for our prophetic role in the community is evidenced in the use of language in Israeli and Palestinian communities. It has been devastatingly hurtful to hear the words people have used when commenting on this past summer’s hostilities. Much of the language used in social media and other outlets is dehumanizing, violent, and hateful. The more we speak about it and allow the bad to consume our lives, the further it will move us away from hope.
As believers, we need to remember that “the prophet is engaged in a battle for language, in an effort to create a different epistemology out of which another community might emerge. This is the hope that the ache of God could penetrate the numbness of history. He engages not in scare or threat but only in a yearning that grows with and out of pain.” As a ministry, we must then ask ourselves, what language are we using? Are we careful in what we say or are we following the crowd, our political leaders, or the mainstream media? Our message should be one that penetrates through the despair and shares the redemption that God has for us individually, communally and nationally.
Right now, our challenge is to hold on to hope. Hope is the refusal to accept the current destructive reality. When we continue to talk about reconciliation, we continue to embrace hope. We continue to believe in the possibility of a better present. We want to speak peace, seek peace, and maintain our hope.
By Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D