Saturday, 24 January 2009

Occupation Opinions

Cambridge students are holding a protest in the law faculty against the Gaza conflict. I want to be supportive, I think activism, political awareness, and trying to create change are so important, and I love that my friend Bela puts her words into actions. But I'm not joining them.

Partly because I don't agree with urging an academic institution to make a political statement... partly because I wonder how much difference the weekend occupation of a building used mostly in the week can make... partly because I wonder how many people are doing this to make themselves feel better and less helpless (I empathise, I hate feeling helpless too...) rather than because it is effective... and partly because I believe side-taking and applying pressure are negative forms of action.

I read a blog from a Christian girl (see links) who put it well:

A lot of Christian friends have been forwarding me the same e-mail detailing Palestinian atrocities. I assume that many think I don’t know about them. I do, of course. I am also aware of Israel’s atrocities as well. What a pickle. Both sides are guilty of something, so I suppose naturally we have to support the party who has done the least wrong, I suppose.

Who cares which side one should support? People are being killed on both sides! What we want is for the murder to stop! Some may say that I’m just dreaming, that this is the real world we’re talking about and we may have to
kill to achieve peace. Well, Jesus never did things the world’s way.

I suggest another tact. Why not we be Christians instead of choosing a side to cheer for? We are supposed to show people the love of Christ, not to cheer at the sidelines as people - Israelis and Palestinians - are being slaughtered. Instead of choosing sides, perhaps we should offer the sick, injured and bereaved aid and care? Perhaps we should pray for peace to reign? Perhaps we should pray for the killing to stop, instead of pointing fingers? Perhaps we should be the people of God instead?

I guess what I wanted to say is that I'm not apathetic. Why do the protesters keep guilt-tripping the rest of us, saying we don't care, saying we aren't interested? I passionately care for the individuals who are suffering.

I was walking through the college today, seeing the square edges of the building, the clear sky, listening to the quiet cold, and thinking how it must be for those caught up in conflict, where the skies are noise-filled and there is no order, only chaos.

want to help those people. But until I am in a position where I can personally reach out to those people and show them compassion with my physical presence, I am stuck feeling helpless, and I do not wish to make myself feel better through protest at the inconvenience of people just trying to do their jobs, making their decision-making process even harder. Maybe it is better to do something rather than nothing but I haven't had a chance to think it through yet. I don't want to make a negative impact, take sides, make moral judgements as to who is right and wrong when the most important thing is real people in pain. Positive aid, real people going out there sacrificially to give real human comfort is the kind of support I can understand. Until then I am going to pray, because God can do anything and is far more powerful than a statement made thousands of miles from children who cannot hear it, made by people who only know wealth, safety and privilege.

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