Gravely concerned

“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest”
Mahatma Gandhi

(Photograph: crow sitting on light post / Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook / 2013)

As a retired educator and a lover of history I have always been attuned to life in the Middle East. It is the birth place of the world’s 3 major religions—none of which have tolerated one another very well. It has always been a part of my life’s current events. From Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Menacham Begin, Anwar Sadat, King Hussein, Queen Noor, peace accords, 6 days wars, kibbutz, walls, settlements, Christian, Muslim, Jew–it seems that for my entire life, whether I choose it or not, the middle east has chosen me.

As a Christian I understand the importance of this area as it holds so many secrets. I am drawn to an innate desire of wanting to go one day—walking in all those many footsteps. There is the Monastery of St. Catherine’s in the southern Sinai that sits on my bucket list. Once reached only across dangerous desert by camel, now reached by vehicle with armed guard. It contains some of the world’s holiest, oldest and rarest of books as well as some of the oldest and most holy Icons.

Instability has been the calling card of this region since the beginning of time. Bloodshed and death are common occurrences. Hate, war, speculation, secrets, resentment are daily parts of life. Fragility is the flip side—nothing is ever concrete or set in stone as this is a region in a constant state of flux—always shifting as with the sands of the area’s dry deserts.

I have a heightened sense of concern over the latest violence in Egypt. 600 plus killed. And the latest on tonight’s national news…churches being sacked, desecrated, burned, pillaged—I might as well have been reading an ancient history book as this could have been a story 1000 years ago. One muslim woman was quoted as saying that she was afraid for her Christian friends. An Egyptian man tearfully bemoaned that countrymen are killing fellow countrymen. Nuns are fleeing from mobs of marauding hooligans set on violence and destruction. Holy places are being destroyed, ancient art vanishes forever in an instant. Lives are taken…humans doing terrible things to other humans…..
And the world remains quiet and watches…..

Those of us who are believers in God are taxed with speaking out, we are taxed with raising our voices—whether we are Christian, Jew or Muslim–as our God says a resounding “NO” to such behavior. Must I be reminded that my God is still the God of the Jew and the Muslim? I think we forget that He loves “them” as much as He loves us. The Nicene Creed, the creed of my faith states that “We [I] believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen….”

I believe in the One True God. “The Father, the Almighty”. “Maker of both heaven and earth” and that means all that is of this earth–I can’t pick and choose. “Of all that is”…”all that is seen and unseen”—meaning things I understand and can see and those things I cannot understand and cannot see—that there are things greater than myself, I am the created, He, He alone is the Creator…… and yet I think it is ok to remain silent, to watch—that is there and I am here—but the irony is that I am there as well–for where there is strife and turmoil with a fellow man [woman] I am in that strife and turmoil as well.

A powerful quote by an assuming, soft spoken man whom I greatly admire and have written about many times, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, seems prophetically fitting in this most dire of times…

“First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

As a Christian, knowing that there are other Christians in harm’s way makes me culpable— Innocents who have “no dog in this fight” are the scapegoats by being in the wrong place at the wrong time—which is not made right by a people simply mad at the Government and the politics of the day. And I do nothing because that is there and I am here.

Will we sit ideally by while the Churches burn and the priests are imprisoned and murdered–while the nuns run for their lives? I suppose we can..because that is there and I [we] are here—what does there have to do with us here you ask?

Everything my friend, everything.

10 comments on “Gravely concerned

  1. Karen says:

    What a well written post about a part of the world that I don’t ever think will ever be at peace.

    • thank you Karen–I appreciate your input. You’re right, I don’t think there will be or can be a lasting peace there in the Middle East…but as I jump from my posts about baking with apples to the Beatles, something just wouldn’t let me remain silent while such senseless violence is gripping an area and holding so many hostage in its wake—Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it in such a sad nutshell for us all—blessings up in wonderful Maine 🙂

  2. Val says:

    This is made of awesome. Go look up the Icons of Sinai at the Getty Museum site: I’ve seen some of them! Live!

  3. Val says:

    Oh shoot, but you know what? That quotation isn’t Bonhoeffer, it’s Martin Niemöller. :/

    I knew it was NOT Bonhoeffer because I remember reading about an interview with whoever it was who was not Bonhoeffer recently, and had to look it up. Apparently a professor at University of California Santa Barbara has made the origin of this quotation his pet ALL historians, myself included, have them). One of the things I found when looking this up:

    The Bonhoeffer quotation that would work is the one about silence and evil, action and inaction:

    “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

    I have it handy because it’s part of the conclusion to the essay found here:

    (I feel like a Type-A troll to hit “Post Comment,” know that…)

    • Val, every book I have on Bonhoeffer attributes that quote to him–so that’s what I’m sticking with….

      • Val says:

        Okay. I’ve never seen it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not in your books. The Niemöller attribution is the one I’ve always seen because of the concentration camp backstory connection with Dachau; I’ve been studying that longer than Bonhoeffer, which is why the “not Bonhoeffer thought” sent me searching. Looking at what Dr. Marcuse has compiled, it seems questionable if even Niemöller himself said it as such.

  4. Bonhoeffer or Niemöller–either way–it’s a great quote–eh?

  5. Lynda says:

    I vacillate between thinking that the West should interfere and that the West should let the Middle East solve their own problems, that we just don’t understand the culture and how people think in the Middle East. I really don’t know the answer but I do know that whenever there is violence and someone is hurt or killed or whenever there is misunderstanding, we are all affected for “no man is an island entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” John Donne

    • Oh Lynda, I agree—to intervene or not…no, we do not, obviously, understand the culture. I watched the news last evening and the reporter was interviewing a Muslim woman standing there on the streets of Cairo and she told him that this is where she wishes to die. He asked her with more of a statement..”it is here you should die?” “yes, here in the fight”— And mixed up in the melee are those who use this as an excuse for their own hidden agenda—such as attacking Christians—which this issue has nothing to with—it is just simply a mess—but one place’s mess has implication for all of us…just as you so aptly quote Donne…..
      thank you for your thoughts and Blessings always to you—Julie

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