Have you ever puzzled over the perpetual conflict in the Middle East? Why is peace so impossible there? What practical steps can be taken toward peace?
Last night I attended a talk given by Emile Shoufani. He lives in Nazareth and is a voice for peace. He is an Arab and Palestinian, but also Israeli and an orthodox priest. For more than twenty years he directed St. Joseph’s school, with about 1300 students. The prejudice, mistrust, stereotypes, everything that fuels the Middle East conflict feed into his school. Every time an event happens that could cause unrest, which is often, he has to calm the students and encourage patience and understanding, not revenge.
This goes deep into his roots.
He was born in Nazareth, and in 1948 when his village was claimed by Israel the soldiers rounded up 17 young men and shot them in the public square. One of them was his uncle. His family fled, heading north toward Lebanon. Three miles up the road his grandfather too was shot and killed. His grandmother found herself with five children to take care of. With no help at the border they eventually had to turn back. It took months. When they finally returned his grandmother insisted that she was for the living, not the dead, for her five remaining children, not the memory of those who died. She refused to attend the funerals or even have her husband’s body brought back to their family tomb. She also refused to allow anger, hatred or vengeance in her house. In short, with God’s help she forgave them.