Peace, salaam, shalom
“I went through hell,” said Yocheved Lifschitz, the 85-year-old grandmother and peace activist released by Hamas a few days ago after two weeks in captivity. Despite that, did you see the extraordinary images of her shaking the hand of a Hamas gunman, just seconds before she was handed over to the International Red Cross? “Shalom”, she said to him, “shalom”.
Four weeks ago, the theme for programme at Iona Abbey was ‘listening to the voices of Palestinians.’ There were three leaders: Robert, a British Jew; John, a Palestinian Christian and Ahmed, a Palestinian Muslim.
At our weekly Agape Meal, all three read from their Scriptures, words that included: “Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbour as yourself”. Ahmed in particular was deeply moved to be asked to read from the Quran in a church. We were deeply moved to hear him read. He also spoke about his experience of growing up in Gaza during serial military assaults and the blockade of Gaza imposed in 2007.
Since that week on Iona, we have watched in horror as the abhorrent terrorist attack by Hamas in Israel has been followed by the complete blockade of Gaza and the use of overwhelming firepower against 2.3 million Gazans, over half of whom are children.
A few days ago, Ahmed shared this message on social media: “My beloved father, my brothers, my sisters, their entire children, have just ascended to heaven. Israel targeted our home [in the Gaza Strip] leaving around 30 of my family killed. No injuries.”
Our hearts go out to Ahmed in love and grief, and to all who have been affected by this latest cycle of violence. With Ahmed, we seek a cessation of violence through the just and equitable application of international law, and a just future for all.
The Iona Community condemns all the killings and violence in Israel from 7th October, and in Gaza and the West Bank not only since then but for the last 56 years. An unjust context does not exonerate an unjust response – be that from Hamas or Israel.
We pray and act for peace, salaam, shalom.
Thanks to Caro Penney, CCN Israel/Palestine, Wild Goose Resource Group and Iain McLarty for this contribution to Sounds of Iona.
Ruth Harvey is away.
Where heaven is present
A prayer for Israel/Palestine
Eternal God, in your love for this world,
you have made places of great beauty.
And always where heaven is present,
hell is never far off.
This is our experience;
it is the lot of your people.
We recognise it in the world.
Here, we come to hold before you
that land on which your son put his feet
and first walked the path to heaven,
across the terrain of the earth.
Help us, for we seek to enter into solidarity
with our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land.
We ask for integrity and humility.
not to keep apart Palestinian and Jew in our prayers,
but under your guidance
to find a way of holding together their fractured history.
And enable us in our lives
and through our prayers
to seek the road to reconciliation and recovery,
until we glimpse in our hearts
and establish on earth
the justice and peace between neighbours,
which you have destined for the world you love.
copyright © 2007 WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, Scotland
Originally published in the WGRG Liturgy Booklet ‘Fencing in God’s People’ (out of print)
O God, we pray for peace
Words & Music copyright © 2023 Iain McLarty