Friday, August 20, 2010

Faith Beyond Despair? a word from Father Elias Chacour

I have recently been reading Elias Chacour's recent book "Faith Beyond Despair: Building Hope in the Holy Land." For those not familiar with Father Chacour's writings, I would highly recommend his previous books, "Blood Brothers" and "We Belong to the Land." In all of his books, he tells his own story, of his experience as part of a Palestinian family that was run out of their village in '48, but stayed within what became the state of Israel, and are thus Israeli Arab citizens. He is a priest, now a bishop, and has spent his life working for reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis, Christians, Jews and Muslims. (For more information on the educational complex he has built over the years, see

I find his perspectives refreshing, given his long years of experiencing first hand all of the problems and setbacks of the Palestinian people, and knowing well the obstacles to peace and reconciliation. It amazes me that someone who has lived what he has lived, still has hope.

Here are a couple of statements from "Faith Beyond Despair," with relational convictions that are foundational - in his view - to finding a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict:

"It is not a matter now of tolerating each other, we have to accept each other.

"We have to move beyond tolerance to the point of accepting one another, which means accepting that the other is different and that this difference is an enrichment, not a threat. That is the way our attitudes have to evolve, and unfortunately that is not yet happening.

"Before we were ever Jews, Muslims or Palestinians we were simply men and women. We must always remember our common identity. The trouble is that we educate our children, not to be human beings, but to be Zionists, or left wing, or right wing, or Palestinians fanatics standing on their rights with hatred in their hearts.

"My proposal to you is that we should work together in harmony to create a human society in which it will be good to be alive. … Neither you nor I nor our friend the sheik was born a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew. According to the Bible, we were born first and foremost as children, created in the image of God."

Is this possible? Can Muslims, Christians and Jews, Palestinians and Israelis, or any of us, set aside their ideologies and secondary identities, focus on their shared primary identity as human beings, and learn to accept one another, as a basis for living together in society? Given all that Father Chacour has experienced to the contrary, the fact that he continues to believe that this is possible, and that he seeks to live this out in his interactions with others, gives me hope.

To me, Father Chacour is a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Palestinian struggle. May his hope stay strong, and prove well founded.

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