For the past several weeks, I have been praying for peace every morning. I pray that God brings peace to the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel and Gaza. However, every time I pray for peace, I think about an important lesson that I learned from my supervisor while serving in Hong Kong.
We were talking about the World Council of Churches meeting, and he expressed disappointment that the WCC failed to take a more radical stance on certain issues. The WCC choose to take a neutral stance, and aimed to build bridges and ways to peace in certain conflicts, esp. the on-going conflict between Israel and Palestine (this was before the most current violence). During this conversation, my supervisor said that he disagreed with this stance because you cannot build a bridge from the middle of anything. You have to pick a side.
Think about that: in order to physically build a bridge across something, you must start on one side or the other. You cannot build it from the middle.
So often, when I hear conversations about Israel and Palestine, people express a need to end violence “on both sides.” And yes, there has been death of civilians in Israel at the hands of Hamas (and before that the PLO), but the current death toll of this violence in July stands at over 1,800 dead, and an additional 2,000 wounded (these are the numbers that I remember hearing most recently). The UN estimates that 80% of those dead and wounded are civilians. There have been fewer the 5 deaths of Israeli civilians since this most recent conflict started in July.
And of course, this situation is not limited to the conflict between Israel and Palestine. All too often, we justify actions taken by one or more parties during a war with the language “on both sides,” and just because violence happens “on both sides,” that does not mean that either side is justified in their actions. Nor do I believe that God accepts this justification. I believe in a God who sides with the weak, the oppressed and the hungry. Therefore, as Christians, we should side with the weak, the oppressed and the hungry. In the very least, we have to choose a side because if we ever want to build lasting change, we must start from one side or the other and not from the middle.