The religions of the world have a mandate for peace. We often claim that rule for our own religion, talking of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, greeting each other with ‘salaam aleikam’ (peace be upon you), or ‘shalom chaverim’ (peace, my friends), or praying ‘Om shanti’ (the peace of the eternal). This is, I think, the true mission of all religions on earth.
All scriptures were, of course, written down at specific times and places in human history, carrying inspired insights into the events of those times and places, insights which have proved valuable for later generations.
They have given inspiration to millions of people down the ages and in all parts of the world.
At every age those ancient scriptures are interpreted by people for their own time, and so it’s very important that the Bible, or the Qur’an, the Bhagavad Gita or any other treasured text, is never used to justify oppression or cruelty, or to give privileges to one nation over another.
In the last 2,000 years, Christians have often used the New Testament as an excuse for persecuting the Jewish people, and European persecution led to the Sho’ah when millions of Jews died under Nazism. Europeans are – rightly – deeply ashamed.
I think we must bear that shame, and not try to salve our consciences at another country’s expense. Now, looking at the terrible events in Gaza over the last week, I see a situation where the Bible has been used to justify taking away from the Palestinian people their homeland and their freedom. Their homes have been destroyed, many have been treated unjustly, and even killed, and they are imprisoned behind a Wall and countless checkpoints. They have been denied the right of protest about the injustice they are receiving, and termed ‘terrorists’ when they try to defend themselves.
This is not just a battle between the Israeli state and Hamas. Israel is part of the American Empire, whose wealth has helped make it the richest and most powerful state in the region. Empires are inherently violent, and America is no exception; their violence triggers violent reactions from the oppressed. Over the whole region men, women and children are becoming refugees from their own countries. It is a regional issue, and – I think – a global one too. Our scriptures must not be used to justify this treatment to anyone.
I believe that Christians, Jews and Muslims should unite together to resist the violence of the American Empire, to which the State of Israel, and – too often – the government of this country too, have assented and which they have helped to implement.
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