At our last delegation meeting last Friday afternoon, we had lunch with Rev. Dr. Mitri Rahib, one of the writers of the Kairos Document. This document was written by Palestinian Christian leaders in the model of the Kairos South Africa Document bringing together peace makers to address oppression and apartheid.
During the lunch - in a beautiful setting in Bethlehem - Dr. Rahib quoted from Corinthians that "there are these three things that endure: Faith, Hope and Love." He went on to reflect that faith - more specifically the institutions of religion - are at the core of much of the violence we have seen throughout the world. He comments as well that love becomes increasingly challenged in the face of violence and oppression. Hope, however, "is not what we do, but what we see."
As I look back on my time in this beautiful land with all its conflicts and desires - human, cultural, economic, religious and political - it is where there were voices of hope that I remember being most energized. It is not that these folks could not see the what was going on around them; in many ways I think they could see more clearly what was going on. But through all this, they saw hope. It was not that they could hope or wish their realities away (from the kibbutz within missile range of Gaza to the olive farmer in Birqeen); it was their insistence on not giving into anger and despair - committing to welcoming people in while reaching ever-further out. They shared a wisdom that our politicians are not our messiahs (a lesson to remember on this election day in comparison to what many felt four years ago.)
Now that I am back in DC and sifting through the emotional, intellectual and spiritual rubble of the past two weeks, I want to put my energy into those places that see hope, not problems and solutions that I suspect will lead to more conflict if they lack hope. There is going to have to be lots of give and take in this epic struggle over there. For those of us here in the states, it might also be a good opportunity to practice seeing hope here at home, no matter how things play out today. If we can't practice it here, what can our realistic expectations be over there?