My denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has long-standing ties with Lutherans in the Middle East that have focused mainly on education (building schools) and both short-term (sending in food and medical supplies) and long-term (building hospitals) relief efforts. Twenty years ago, I crossed paths with Munib Younan, then a parish pastor in Ramallah and now the bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). In 2007, he addressed the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA [word doc] in Atlanta. Referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall, he said in part (with emphasis added):
[W]ho would have imagined that less than two decades later we would be back to building walls? I have no doubt that the Separation Wall in the Holy Land will one day fall for the same reasons. The only question is how many lives, how many shattered and demolished villages, how much dehumanization and stigmatization will we tolerate?
This Wall is not a sign of justice or peace, it is a material sign of the walls of hatred that are growing stronger everyday. This wall does not provide security, it breeds despair and a culture of separation. And it cannot contain the hatred and resentment that are building every day.
That was in August of 2007, and Bishop Younan’s question is still painfully appropriate — even more so as leaders in Israel have moved from building walls to blowing them up. The number of lives lost and the number of shattered and demolished villages are growing, and the dehumanization of the "other" continues faster than ever, with hatred and resentment growing exponentially.
The title of this post comes from a sign at a school run by the ELCJHL, and I’d love to see it posted at the Pentagon, the State Department, the White House, and at the military and diplomatic facilities of nations around the world. Anytime two parties with disagreements move from lobbing angry words to lobbing missiles and bombs, it’s a sure sign of failure on someone’s part.
A week ago, Bishop Younan and a dozen of his ecumenical partners in Jerusalem called for Sunday, January 4, 2009 to be "a day for justice and peace in the land of peace." If that were to happen, it would be a miracle.
(photo h/t delayed gratification)