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perspectives

from the Secretary General

Is Peace Possible?

by Robert L. Stern

Is it possible to have peace in the Holy Land — and, for that matter, throughout the Middle East?

Of course.

But, is it possible to have peace in the Holy Land now, not some day in the remote future?

Of course.

Then, why don’t we have peace in that part of the world?

Because there is no will to have peace.

Oh, there’s much talk about peace, interminable talking about peace — and much lamenting the lack of it. But there is no will to make peace.

If all parties concerned were truly determined to make peace, it could be accomplished tomorrow — or at least the day after. Alas, there is no real determination to do so.

In the Middle East, bargaining is almost an art form. Everyone practices it. A shopkeeper always offers his goods at double the price he hopes to receive; a buyer always offers a purchase price half what he expects to pay. Then the bargaining begins.

Should peacemaking be any different?

Of course not.

For example, Hamas may say, “We will never recognize the state of Israel.” The Israeli — or the U.S. — government may say, “We will never negotiate with a terrorist organization.”

As openers, these are fine. But, remember the art of bargaining. Color the process with all the righteous indignation you may want, but proceed to negotiate and arrive at a mutually acceptable price to pay for peace.

Why is there no will to make peace? Is it because of ignorance, prejudice, fear, distrust? Is it due to cowardice, egoism, greed or hatred?

Most people want peace. The man in the street wants peace. Merchants want peace. Educators want peace. Farmers want peace.

Health care professionals want peace. Politicians say they want peace — but often place, position and power come first.

Meanwhile, during the interminable prolonging of a state of hostilities, a great human price is being paid.

Lives are lost. Men are imprisoned. People live in fear. Children’s education is distorted. Security becomes nonexistent. Unemployment grows. Lands are rendered useless. Families become homeless. Emigration grows. Traditional cultures and values wither.

Do those responsible for this grim situation suffer the price as well?

A pretext for inaction often is, “How can you make peace with ‘them’?” The adversary, my enemy, is not a “Satan” — pure evil. He or she is a fellow human being.

In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock protests to his tormentors, “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

Substitute any combination of “Jew,” “Christian” and “Muslim” — the message is the same.

The good Jews, Christians and Muslims of the Holy Land seek healing. Everyone gives them a diagnosis. Who will provide a cure?

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Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern



Tags: Middle East Holy Land