A good pilgrimage leaves one with more questions than answers and this one has not disappointed. Several evenings we were blessed to have guests come and talk with us about the current situation here in the Holy Land. It’s hard not to be discouraged. How does one get to a just peace? What does that even mean?
But I did see God moving in the lives of those most heartbroken by the conflict. It was in their brokenness that I found hope.
Near the end our trip, once we had reached Jerusalem, an Israeli father and a Palestinian father from The Parents Circle Families Forum: Bereaved Families for Peace came to tell us the stories of their daughters, Abir and Smadar.
Abir was killed at age 10.
Smadar was killed at age 14.
Both children were victims of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That conflict festers daily and flares regularly. It continues to claim lives and grind up hope.
And yet, out of their shared grief, these two bereaved fathers have become friends and partners in promoting reconciliation. The fathers’ message was challenging and transformative.
- The power of pain is tremendous.
- You can choose to use your pain to bring life or to bring death.
- One must know and understand the pain of your enemy.
- It is important to appreciate the humanity of your enemy.
- One must try to forgive even those who do not ask for forgiveness.
- If we, who have paid the highest price can talk to each other then anyone can.
Above and beyond their words, I saw something else. These men, out of their shared grief had built a deep respect and radiant affection for each other. That is where I saw God at work.
God was transforming their pain into the power to heal—the power to heal themselves, each other and those they encounter.
It’s important to remember that healing isn’t perfection or restoring things to what they might have been before. One still has scars after healing.
Healing in this case was about forgiveness and reconciliation. Each man, by forgiving his daughter’s killer was put on the path to healing. Moreover, the act of forgiveness led both fathers to become partners in bringing reconciliation and healing within their own and each other’s communities.
After I bade farewell to my fellow pilgrims following worship at St. George’s Cathedral, I wandered around the nave taking in its tranquil beauty. At the back, on a bulletin board, along with the usual notices one might expect to see, was a prayer from the British aid agency, Christian Aid. It read:
Pray not for Arab or Jew
for Palestinian or Israeli
but Pray rather for ourselves
that we might not divide
them in our prayers but
keep them both together
in our hearts.
And so, as I depart this holy and broken land, I pray to keep Smadar, Abir, and their fathers in my heart.