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Pace su Jerusalemme – Peace upon Jerusalem

Last day in Bethlehem. Almost two months of peace, which enabled me to pray, rethink, refocus many aspects of in my life. I also understood a bit better, living in a community with Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, the problems of this Holy Land, which may soon become the theater of a new war.

The insincerity, duplicity, the injustices that the “international community” has created in this country is unparalleled. Of course, in the world there are some even more brutal, and racism unfortunately is worsening everywhere, but here it is official, sanctioned by law. While in recent decades we have seen racial discrimination become illegal in the United States and South Africa, here it is still practiced in the name of God, the God who is “always present in this place,” as says a sign near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.

Palestinian Christians feel threatened, between the Israeli apartheid and the violence of Islamic extremists, and they leave as soon as they get the chance. Communities with ancient traditions crumble. Nazareth and Bethlehem used to be Christian towns up to thirty years ago, now they have a Muslim majority.

The whole area lives under the threat of an imminent nuclear confrontation between Israel and Iran. Or, as is immediately simplified in the talks you hear in the street, between America and Islam. The wars that have been lasting for a decade in Afghanistan and Iraq – which were launched with the promise that they would end in a few months – have aggravated the tension between Israel and the Arab world. Today we hear talks of an imminent preventive war of Israel against Iranian nuclear sites. Everyone knows about this threat, there are articles in every newspaper in the world, although not yet on the front page. Yet, when war will break out, it will have to seem an inescapable fact. There are already calculations of what kind of bombs, and how many, you will used, and how many casualties they will cause. They say it will be a war that will define international political alliances for many years to come, and the way the world will be divided. Experts say the war will inevitably break out before the end of this year’. The questions raised by the great strategists can be summed up in a few words: It ‘s more dangerous to allow Iran to manufacture its atomic bomb or try to stop it attacking its nuclear facilities? United States and Israel can win against Iran? In geopolitical terms can they earn more than what they are likely to lose? Will Obama, a premature Nobel Peace, declare a war just because it has the necessary military force to impose its interests, because only the American interests are right?

An Italian acquaintance I happened to meet a few days ago in a Jerusalem alley, commented “That is what also Jesus thought, remember? when a king wages war against another king, does he go to fight without first sitting down to consider whether his ten thousand can stand against the twenty thousand of his opponent? And if not, while the other is still a long way off he sends messengers for peace talks”.
No, Jesus used the parable of the war to underline that to follow him is challenging. Immediately before and immediately after he said, “If you come to me, without being ready to give up your love for your father and mother, your spouse and children, your brothers and sisters, and indeed yourself, you cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not follow me carrying his own cross cannot be my disciple. In the same way, none of you may become my disciple if he doesn’t give up everything he has.” He’s talking about the war against ourselves, our selfishness, our desire for power and domination over others. Be careful, he says to the listener, calculate well your strength, to follow me on the road of peace is difficult, much more difficult than making war.

Instead, the basic tenet of the announced war Israel – Iran is to calculate the time to be sure to destroy the opponent. The two parties know well that the winners will write the history, and will establish trials for crimes against humanity. When you win, you’re right. Woe to the losers! It is important to win, so use all the means available. What weapon did Cain use to kill his brother? Today, apart from the weapons, we have not made much progress on the path of humanization.

This morning I made a visit to the Grotto of the Nativity, later I went to Jerusalem for a final prayer near the Holy Sepulchre. The two extremes of the life that Jesus lived with a body like ours. In these places even the stones cry out “stop all wars”. With the war all lose, with peace everyone wins. The war does not eliminate the injustices and sufferings, it creates others. Injustice, oppression, hatred must be overcome with encounter, dialogue, respect for each others humanity. Even the theologians of all faiths, always tempted by fundamentalism, are beginning to understand that it is meaningless to talk about just war. War and justice today are antithetical, because the weapons have become even more unfair – yes, because if you could think that a sword could be used to restore justice, an atomic bomb will never be a tool for justice – and also because of the growing awareness, a higher consciousness. Peace is human, the war cannot be, any more.

It ‘was a precious time. A time for reflection and prayer, to recharge and start again. Although some places – such as the Mount of Beatitudes – make you think it would be nice to stay there, I have always felt an imperious inner voice demanding me to go elsewhere to seek the Risen One, together with the people with whom I have walked in recent years.

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