When I moved to Israel-Palestine, the question I was asked most often was ‘Is it safe?’ Over and over, loved ones expressed concern. The bombs. The knives. The guns. Signs of anger and fear. Weapons of terror and ‘security’. They’re what make the news. People know two things about this place: ‘Holy Land’ and ‘Hamas’. (There are, of course, those whose understanding is considerably more nuanced, but I’ve been surprised at how little most people know about the situation here.)
Where I am, I do not feel unsafe.
In Jerusalem, I do not feel unsafe.
In Bethlehem, I do not feel unsafe.
In most places I have visited here, in the West Bank and in Israel, I do not feel unsafe.
There are many for whom that is not the case. Whether they are Jewish or Arab. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can mean death.
We are a long way from peace in this land.
When I was in Rome, I got off the plane and breathed a deep breath. Familiarity, I thought. European comforts. Peace.
Then we arrived in Termini station, and exiting, we passed guards with enormous guns. I felt the suspicion. Fear hovered over the busy platforms.
No, even here there is no peace, I realised.
Peace is not merely the absence of war.
Where people live in fear, there can be no peace.
Where there are injustice and discrimination, there can be no peace.
Where military enforced security is necessary, there can be no peace.
Where religion is used to dominate, terrorise, oppress, persecute, there can be no peace.
There is no peace in our world today. Brussels. Istanbul. Maiduguri. Aleppo. Jerusalem. And all the many places deemed too insignificant to make the news. There is no peace anywhere.
In this holiest of weeks, when we remember the crucifixion of the Prince of Peace and celebrate the God of peace who brings life from death, the only prayer on my aching heart is Lord, have mercy.