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  • Lorin Peters

Shanti Sena Stories: Loving Your Enemy

2007 July 23

Rami Elhanan, co-founder of Bereaved Parents for Peace 2004

The town of Sderot, one-half mile northeast of the Gaza Strip, has been the favorite target of Islamic Jihad. In the past four years, several thousand Qassam rockets have hit Sderot, killing ten, wounding many more, and traumatizing thousands.

Christian Peacemaker Teams has been having a vigorous internal debate about the wisdom of working in, or at least visiting, Sderot. I find my teammate John Lynes’ contribution to the debate (2007 July 16) both striking, and useful:

“I'm not a particularly loving person, but I have learnt that the only certain effect of loving your enemies is to infuriate your friends (including long-suffering team-mates). Jesus, living under Roman occupation and addressing a Palestinian audience, did not preach, "Seek ye first the end of the Occupation". Maybe we too are called to accept the consequences of loving our enemies, which will certainly include being misunderstood.

“I'd also suggest that a team in Sderot could have a distinct, if small, chance of reducing violence. Maybe hotheads in Gaza would be less inclined to fire rockets if their friends were at the receiving end?

“Some peacemakers are called to be "prophets", some are called to be "reconcilers”. CPT needs both. Reconcilers will always be a minority. That's OK. So thanks, Sean, for being a faithful prophet. I'll carry on trying to be a reconciler.”

The knot of fear and hatred that has tied the peoples of Israel and Palestine into conflict is immensely complex and deep. I have given much thought to the question of how to begin to untie and unravel this knot.

When my friend Sean worries that “publishing press releases about rocket attacks in Sderot would contribute to the [Israeli] narrative”, I wish to disagree. We would publish both narratives, and ask our readers to embrace both peoples, and to break out of the trap of power and domination.

“Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time. Hatred ceases by love alone. This is an unalterable law.” - the Buddha” (translated by Eknath Easwaran, in ‘Gandhi the Man’)

I long to open the hearts and minds of those who occupy and oppress our Palestinian brothers and sisters. But they will not be able to hear me as long as they believe I hate them. They will not be able to recognize my truth until they understand that I love them also.

Martin Luther King, after the killing of four young black girls by the bombing of their Sunday school class, said that he still believed in the white man. “We must not lose faith in our white brothers. Somehow we must believe that the most misguided among them can learn to respect the dignity and worth of all human personality.”

Some black people thought he had sold-out, and called him an ‘Uncle Tom’. But thousands, perhaps even millions, of white people found his love for us irresistible. There was no way we could resist such magnificently expensive love. His suffering for us literally freed our minds to understand the rest of his message, about our oppression of his people. He freed us from our own power and domination.

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