Taking the Side of Peace

West Bank | 2017 by Craig Howard

Our country and the world are experiencing a great upheaval this week because of the Hamas strike against Israel. Although the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has shown us the brutality of war, what Hamas did (not what the Palestinians did, or the Muslims did) went beyond brutality and into the realm of atrocity and barbarianism. There are rules to warfare and all the rules were broken.

The Ecumenical and Interreligious work group has been diligent in finding ways to speak to the atrocity that has been committed, while seeking bridges of peace and reconciliation that value human life in Gaza and Israel. Through them the presbytery has provided a prayer for congregations to use and connections to PCUSA resources. They have shown support to the Jewish people and the Muslim community. I depend upon them for direction and wisdom.

The Presbytery of Chicago seeks to embrace both the Palestinian and Jewish people – our Muslim and Jewish siblings. We do not pretend to have a solution to the complex Middle East North African conflict, and we do not take political positions on either side. Instead, we side with peace, hope, human rights, and reconciliation.

As I prayed this morning for our presbytery and for those in Gaza and Israel, my eyes came across the daily Richard Rohr meditation I receive. In his meditation, “Responding to the Gaps,” he writes about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and how they were able to bring both sides together of a horrific divide and bring healing to a nation. He writes:

While (Nelson Mandala and Bishop Desmond Tutu) carried a great burden about gaps of injustice, they radiated conviction and not condemnation, redemption and not final judgment, embrace and not rejection. The truly prophetic nature of their work in South Africa was pursuing justice with a quality of mercy that shaped a quest for communion with enemies and strangers.

God, I pray that we be people of the gap. I pray we be people of conviction and redemption as we embrace the stranger and one another in love.

Rev. Dr. Craig Howard