Gaza: Just such a time as this

5 January 2008
Gaza: Just such a time as this

[The following reflection by CPT Director Emeritus Gene Stoltzfus has been edited for length.  People wishing to see the original piece will find it at]

Today I grieve over what is happening in the region of Gaza.  Is there anything I can do?  Am I limited to government statements, last minute diplomacy, or immobilizing personal outrage?  How do I respond from this place of despair?  What do I tell the children?  Is this the time when the posture of prayer may provide the openness toward a solution waiting for recognition?

When people are pressed to the limit of their flesh, they find a way to struggle.  The people of Gaza﷓--whose democratically elected government more powerful nations rejected and who have been suffering under Israel’s crippling blockade﷓--are not the first peoples to do so.  Suicidal missions happen in most wars.  Soldiers serving a cause in which they believe﷓--freedom, empire, democracy or religion--﷓know that they may die for that cause.  They believe, sometimes with positive outcomes, that their sacrifice might reach beyond the limits of today’s reason into tomorrow’s solutions. 

Where do those of us outside of Palestine and Israel, those of us who reject violence, turn for a resolution?  Thousands of boardrooms, staff meetings, and grand peace councils set up to deal with crises like this have not produced solutions.  As diplomats desperately grope for chimerical ceasefires, those involved in the conflict feel despair and guilt over lost opportunities.  Will solutions ever come from diplomacy or councils?  Will the sixty-year stalemate continue for another forty years--a full century of explaining the conflict to Christian, Jewish and Muslim children?

Or can the Gaza crisis of 2008-2009 ignite our imaginations?  Can we believe that our collective imaginations might help?  Have we received one more opportunity to sharpen our senses for what divine mystery wants to reveal to us?

Religious and secular people committed to social justice and peacemaking, are suspicious that meditation belongs only to the pious and those who hide behind spiritual exercises to avoid engagement.  This split between people of action and people of prayer is a false dichotomy that appears in every tradition.  If political analysis or raw activism could have provided the basis for peace in this region of God’s earth, it would have happened long ago.  What has been lacking is the acknowledgement of unknown forces at work among and through patterns of violent conflict in Israel and Palestine. 

The war in Gaza today invites me to prayer.  I share our common desperation for a breakthrough.  I don’t promise that prayer will enlighten my imagination in a fresh way.  I will try because I know that liberation from false myths of security is born in times of violence.  When a sign or nudge to action comes, I hope I have the courage to follow it.   And if it comes to you or me, we can share it with the people on the peace councils, in diplomatic corps, or organizations﷓--share it with all the people on this journey with us.  We may be here for just such a time as this.