Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.PRoverbs 31.8
I don’t actually believe that there is such a thing as a voiceless person. Even amongst those who are most oppressed.
Everyone has a voice.
Those in positions of privilege choose either to ignore it, or amplify it. But everyone has a voice.
I came back from Gaza yesterday. Six of us representing the Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church, the Methodist Church UK, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) spent two and a half days with our partner organisations listening, looking, learning.
Here are the voices I heard. And some of the pictures I saw. Here is what some of the people of Gaza have to say. They don’t need me to speak for them. Their voices are powerful enough. What they need is for us to listen. And to respond, speaking out for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
Darraj psychosocial clinic
The Near East Council of Churches runs a psychosocial clinic in Darraj Refugee Camp. It is a safe space where the young people can express their feelings through art, dance, music & play. They learn ways to cope with the many stresses of life in Gaza. We asked the girls what they want to do when they are older:
I want to be a doctor. A human rights lawyer. A journalist writing about Gaza. A counsellor to help children manage life’s difficulties. An artist to express children’s lives. A nurse. An engineer. A speaker traveling around the world to tell people about the Gazan people.
We want to live in freedom and enjoy freedom. That’s what all children need.
Ahli Arab Hospital
Ahli Arab Hospital is the oldest hospital in Gaza and is operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. It offers medical care to all regardless of religious, ethnic or economic background and provides training for doctors and nurses throughout Gaza.
Suhaila Tarazi, Director of Ahli Arab Hospital, said: Our aim is to build up the people of Gaza, both their knowledge through our training programmes, but also their tolerance of one another and all people. Human beings are all children of God.
Our God is a just God. Everyone has the right to live in peace and dignity. We want the children of the Holy Land — all the children of the Holy Land — to have the opportunity to live together in peace.
Nuseirat women’s programme
Nuseirat UNRWA Women’s Programme Centre provides a kindergarten, vocational training for women, and a women’s legal aid centre for some of the poorest women in Gaza. When asked where they find their hope, Samah said: We have no choice. What else can we do? We trust in our God.
Every problem will be solved one day. Even Gaza. Until then, this is our mission [to serve the women of the refugee camp] and we will do the work we need to do.
The YMCA Gaza provides a safe, politically neutral space for both Christian and Muslim kids to play and families to hang out. They offer gyms for girls and boys, a library, an art studio, basket ball and tennis courts and a football pitch. They were busy preparing for 500 young people to attend their summer camp.
Some of the directors at the YMCA told us: Since the beginning, the mandate of the YMCA has been the same, to disseminate love to all the people of Gaza. The Spirit of God directs us in this work, and we have to listen to the Spirit.
The words of Jesus are clear: Love one another and love your enemies.
The New Testament is all about love, and this is the message we want to give as well. We don’t gather lots of money, but we do gather lots of love to embrace the people.
The rights of the vulnerable
I will be writing more about our partners — the work they do, the challenges they face — in the coming days. The political situation in Gaza is only getting worse. All of our partners have experienced drastic cuts in funding, and there seems to be no end to the blockade and the conflict. We must speak out for the rights of those who are suffering and oppressed.
First, though, I wanted you to hear some of their voices. I wanted you to hear what I heard, the strength in their words, the passion and courage and love with which they speak. They refuse to give up hope, and they refuse to be silenced. They are not voiceless. But who is listening?