Today’s post is a guest post written by Adrian Jones. Adrian works as a Bishop’s Chaplain and Policy Advisor, and in his spare time, he’s also my incredible Dad.
While I’m also promoting Christian Aid’s Gaza emergency appeal, this post is the opinion of the author, and not linked to Christian Aid.
Do comment and discuss, but note that comments involving hate-speech of any kind will not be published.
I’m not sure that I do believe all human life is of equal value anymore. The evidence is definitely against me.
Last week there were news reports of 298 people killed on flight MH17 in the Ukraine, while 100,000 refugees flee the ground fighting; there were reports of a truce in the conflict in the Central African Republic where thousands have died in the last year; and 600 people have died in an outbreak of Ebola virus in Liberia. But the only pit of human suffering that is really making me angry, really cutting into my heart, is Gaza.
Why, if I’m brutally honest, do I value the people of Gaza more highly than everybody else in this sin-soaked world?
Is it because I have more in common with Palestinians? Well, they’re a bit closer to home than Afghanistan or Burma, but their life and culture bears no comparison to middle class, middle income, middle England (that’s where I live by the way).
Is it that they have suffered more? Well more than me to be certain, but more than others in my lifetime? That surely can’t be the case: Srebrenica, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the Haitian earthquake… Gaza 2014 has no monopoly of suffering.
Is it because I can see the suffering unfold from the comfort of my sofa every night on Channel 4? Well, true, live coverage does make an impact, but then again the Central African Republic, Syria and Ukraine have also dominated news programmes in their turn, and sometimes I don’t even look up from the paper.
Is it because their suffering somehow increases my suffering? Oh, please! I’m struggling to think of even one way in which the shelling of a civilian population in the Middle East has even an indirect impact on my daily life in lovely Leicester (with apologies to my Leicester Muslim friends, for whom there is a very clear chain of suffering).
Is it because “my enemy’s enemy is my friend”? Israel is not my enemy. I rarely have the strength of feeling that would make someone an enemy, and the Israeli Secret Service will surely not be tapping my phone or coming after me in a dark alley.
But to be frank, perhaps Israel is the link between the terrible suffering in Gaza and the surprising strength of the sickening feelings that events over the last few weeks have evoked in me.
Can I be blunt?
The Jewish people experienced the worst systematic persecution, torture and murder of the 20th century – we rightly remember Holocaust Memorial Day every single year with deep, deep sadness and profound moral outrage at the suffering inflicted on innocent men, women and children in the Nazi concentration camps.
And the treatment of the Jews in Europe in the 1930s and 40s was the culmination of centuries of anti-Semitism, often fostered by Christians; innocent, usually defenceless, civilian Jews have carried the weight of prejudice, oppression and violence since the time of Constantine.
Through it all they have maintained their culture, their sense of identity, their ideal of community and family, a uniquely special sense of irony and humour, not to mention a determination to make something good of life wherever they might be and whatever happens…. and they have maintained their faith.
Faith blows hot and cold for all of us of course, but as a people the Jews have held tenaciously, against all pressure to let go and turn away, to their faith in the one God.
This is the God who is powerful, righteous, just, merciful and loving; the God who hears the lament of the weak, whose wrath is raised by the oppression of the poor, who demands that we protect the widow and the orphan, that we receive the stranger with generous hospitality.
The Hebrew Scriptures bear witness to this God.
As a Christian I believe that the Son of God was born into this people, so that they might fulfil their mission to be a light to the world, that through them God might draw all nations, all peoples to Himself, creating a new humanity where justice and peace will reign.
A people chosen to bring blessing to the world; a people who have suffered unimaginably themselves; and now, through the modern State of Israel, a people who inflict terrible suffering. I think this is why my heart is cut and my stomach is sick when I see what is happening in Gaza.
If you’d like to donate to Christian Aid’s Gaza emergency appeal, please do so here.