From Gaza to Prisoner's Week its all about Peace and Justice in the Midst of Conflict

Taking time to think and reflect on the world around us is so difficult in our fast moving world. Here's a picture of me at the DMZ standing in South Korea. the ribbons represent prayers for peace. We live in a world of conflict where walls are erected to protect those who feel afraid.  So we see walls in Korea in Israel and even in Northern Ireland.  For most of the time we don't see them. Instead we are locked behind our our private walls to protect ourselves from our personal conflicts. I was speaking with a group of ministers last week. One man said quite honestly. " Look I know I should be thinking about  the bigger picture. Questions about  the purpose of life about peace and justice. " He went on to say, when we are all in the middle of trying to work out what our function and role is in our own specific sphere of life, we seldom have the luxury of  big picture thinking. Today journalists and commentators will be speculating about the rights and wrongs of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  One thing we are all agreed on, it is horrific. The causes that lie behind the conflict are not going to be solved in a day. Neither are they going to be solved with rockets and bombs. Those who go to war with each other eventually have to sit down and talk. The present conflict must eventually be resolved with a treaty.  In an address to the United Nations in September 2005,  Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke of his longing for the words of the prophets to become a reality , "A vision for alliances between peoples, in a world which would know no more war... He continued in his speech by saying,  "However I say this here also to emphasise the immensity of the pain I feel deep in my heart, at the recognition that we have to make concessions for the sake of peace between us and our Palestinian neighbours. Peace and reconciliation is never easy it its costly. This week moving in and out of the jails across Scotland i am reminded of the personal wars and conflicts we all face. In prison you pass prisoners in a corridor all dressed the same, for many the light has gone out. they are on survival mode. You see people  in prison who look strong and alert and fit, while you recognise others who are best  can only  be described as totally dependent on the support they receive in prison. Then  you cannot help think that for every prisoner there will be a victim. The victims often out number the prisoners.  Victims range from those who have had the crime committed against them  including their circle of friends and family and of course  who are the innocent family members of the prisoners.  All this conflict and anxiety locked up in a prison be it a visible building of bricks and mortar or a moving prison made up of flesh and blood walking the streets of our cities and towns. We are a human race living with conflict within ourselves and also with the results of national conflicts. I come with no easy solutions. However i am convinced that we begin to change the world by changing our own behaviours. When talking to each other let's find way to be less confrontational. Lets find ways to be more trusting.  I honestly think Jesus teaching about turning the other cheek still has much to teach us. Such teaching is not about weakness its about strength. its about learning to absorb the others pain to such an extent that they in turn recognise your pain and they in turn begin to absorb your pain. I don't begin to believe this is easy or natural or that we all can see it this way. However it is the way of the cross. This is the way of one Jewish Rabbi who has changed the mindsets of millions of people. Let us all pray for those in conflict today that they might find time out to see the big picture.
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