I am sure there are many. It’s just that with the Fool in Washington, the Broken Man in London, the Toadie in Canberra, the Rampant Bigot in Teheran, the murderous elements in Hezbollah, the Butcher in the Knesset, and the whole pack of really bad uninspired leaders across the board, enemies of humanity all of them I sometimes think, it is little wonder that we despair at times.
So where did I find this sane voice? Sorry, atheists, but it was on the ABC religious program Encounter this morning, and they have very wisely raced ahead and put up a transcript within minutes of going to air. They usually wait up to a week. “Sociologist, politician and Christian Palestinian, Dr Bernard Sabella, is a passionate advocate of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and argues that finding ‘a joint vision of the future’ is an urgent priority for Palestinians and Israelis. This program presents Dr Sabella’s address to a Canberra audience during his Australian visit this month.”
…I was once in a television studio after the Danish cartoon episode, and a Muslim religious person who was interviewing me said, among other things, something about my growing up in the old city of Jerusalem. And I said, listen, I grew up in the old city of Jerusalem. Our home on the one hand gives one the big mosque, Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Mosque of the Rock, Mesjid alAqsa, and on the other hand it is close to the Holy Sepulchre. And therefore early on in the morning hours when the sun is rising up from the Mount of Olives you could hear the muezzin calling for prayers, and he had such a beautiful voice and his voice spoke to my heart. A little bit later you hear the bells of the Holy Sepulchre ringing and these also speak to my heart.
And the guy said to me, oh, this is the first time I hear a Christian say that he is impressed with the call to prayer. And I say, yes, but this is a reality, there are thousands and thousands of Christians who think the call of prayers is beautiful, especially – especially when the muezzin’s voice is beautiful. We are not like in Australia where I understand you are not allowed to have bell ringing except in certain places at certain times. Nor are you allowed to have muezzins call for prayers. Certainly Australians are very keen on their not only personal privacy but comfort. But whoever comes to the Middle East realises that we cannot live without noise.
But I have to tell you frankly that my experience as a Palestinian Christian has shaped also not simply my attitude to my Muslim neighbours but has shaped also my attitudes in the Arab/Israeli conflict. Some people tell me that you take the Palestinian and Arab view because you are really intimidated by Palestinians, you are intimidated by Muslims. And I say absolutely incorrect. I am saying I take the Arab position because as a Palestinian Christian I feel this problem is a national, political human problem. It is not a religious problem; absolutely it is not a religious problem. I advise always people not to reduce the conflict in the Middle East to a religious conflict because if you are saying Muslims are out to get Israel and that the conflict is a Jewish-Muslim conflict then I have to advise that it will be a non-ending conflict. There will always be people in the name of religion who are fighting against the other religion.
But our problem in Palestine is not a religious problem. It is a strictly political problem and the solution to this problem should be a political solution in which religions would have a role to play. …
Often some Israeli propagandists and Israeli leaders get upset with some Palestinian church leaders because they keep insisting that the evil is Israeli occupation. While not accepting the violent action against Israeli occupation or justifying it, they keep insisting that the evil cause for what is happening is the continuing Israeli occupation. Unfortunately this is a view not shared by Israeli politicians, and therefore in any situation the whole population in Palestine, and as you seen in Lebanon, get to become hostage in the fight. So our Palestinian people is hostage to militants and to Israeli military solutions that would hit everybody. And this we cannot live with.
Now, people ask me as a Palestinian Christian, yes, you do not want to be a bridge so what would you like to be? Well, I would like to serve my people as a Palestinian person and I would like to also bring my faith in this process. It is not easy, but I do not want, as I told you at the beginning, I do not want to make the issue a religious issue but I really would like to see religions playing a more prominent role. But some people say there has been religious dialogue all along in Palestine and Israel and Egypt and Lebanon and Jordan in which religious leaders from all faiths were invited. What do you think of it that? I think it is good but it is not enough. Why? Because religious leaders need not simply come up with statements but they need also to translate these statements into plans of action. What do we do to help young people understand each other? What do we do to get education about the other?
Read it all, or listen to it.
Dr Sabella also mentioned one of those great things we often forget about: the exemplary co-operation between Daniel Barenboim and the late Edward Said to create The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. Go to Wikipedia and read of Projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs.
Are you for peace? Then turn away from our failing politicians, whether they are extremists of the Left or Right, or whether they invoke God, Allah (the same thing you know, except in Arabic) or NoGod. A pox on all of them… They all have blood on their hands and the deaths of innocents to answer for. We could do with a few wiser heads up there though; let’s hope one day we get them. We sure as hell don’t have them now. (The Poet is very impressed with Al Gore’s performance lately.)