One of the reasons I wanted to come to Palestine with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) was to help children get to school and protect them from soldiers who caused them trouble. However, being a good peacemaker, I also came wanting to work hard at loving my enemies. My plan was to try to see the humanity of these soldiers and identify with them as individuals rather than as faceless, uniformed bad guys.
I did not have to work hard. In fact, I did not even have to try. From the beginning, these enemy soldiers were happy to respond to my greeting and even happier to chat for a while. The times when we argued with their orders, they remained patient. Many times, they calmly repeated that they had orders not to let us pass and could do nothing about it. They often apologized for that fact.
Meanwhile, some of the Palestinian children whom I was to support and protect were not nearly as innocent or grateful as I expected. Some schoolboys-and random boys who were not going to the schools we accompany-mobbed us and stole from us, harassed, and swore at us. These boys were the ones to really challenge my commitment to nonviolence. When they threw apples and stones at us, I was tempted to leave them to whatever came their way, tempted to think that they deserved their fate.
I must continually remind myself that no one deserves to live a life like this, and that these kids have been formed by the conflict that surrounds them. It is no wonder they throw stones and swear at anyone who invades their space. How are they to tell which foreigners are here to help them and which are here to hurt them?
As a wannabe peacemaker, I must pray to God to give me love for these children - these children who cause me so much anger and often, ironically, feel like my enemies.
Note: Since 1995 the Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron has provided a violence-reduction presence with street patrols, responding when we hear word of trouble, and staying with people in tense times and places. The team also supports Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers in their work. It is clear to us that there can be no security for Israelis or Palestinians as long as the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip continues.
The Campaign for Secure Dwellings is a network of congregations in North America and Europe working to end the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Christian Peacemaker Teams coordinates the Campaign for Secure Dwellings in cooperation with the Palestinian Land Defense Committee, Rabbis for Human Rights, and the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions. Contact CPT for details.
Christian Peacemaker Teams is an initiative of the historic peace churches (Mennonites, Church of the Brethren, and Quakers) with support and membership from a range of Catholic and Protestant denominations. Supporting violence-reduction efforts around the world is its mandate.
Article reproduced with the kind permission of Christian Peacemaker Teams