4 December. Abraham’s descendants. In the context of the Israel-Hamas war some members of a faith sharing group attempted to explore some of the underlying causes of the centuries-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The current war began after a violent attack on Israel by the extremist Islamic group Hamas on 7 October and was followed by equally extreme retaliation by Israel’s government forces. The complexity of this whole situation cannot be denied, and oversimplifying or taking sides mainly on political grounds, as has too emotionally and simplistically been done all over the world, has complicated it even more. It has divided groups of nations, preventing everyone from reaching a compromise position.   Some helpful observations are made in the article referred to which recognizes that the conflict is driven by ethnic, national, historical and religious factors.

https://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/religion-and-israel-palestinian-conflict-cause-conse.  The religious factor dates from the time of Abraham, the father of all three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The story is well known. Abraham was chosen by God to be the father of many descendants. As his wife was childless he had a son with his slave woman, but God intervened and Sarah also bore a son.  Hagar and her son Ishmael were then banished, but became recognised as ancestors of Islam some 600 years after Christ, through the prophet Mohammed. Abraham’  descendants through Isaac formed the Jewish and later too the Christian religion.

Peace has reigned at times,  but conflict has existed between these three faiths. Extremist positions on both sides, as well as political power, have exacerbated the situation frequently.  Fundamentalist, radical and extremist labels are often used and certainly in a world where current political and economic power dominates in the mainly Christian west, resentment has grown at times into violent extremism in the lesser developed parts of the world.  

The group discussed and debated this rather simplistic explanation and following the request from Pope Francis decided that as Christians their response should include prayer for peace and an end to war. “As we prepare for Christmas and the coming of the Prince of Peace let us redouble our efforts, fast, sacrifice and pray for our suffering brothers and sisters, especially the children.”   “Let us also not forget the suffering of our earth as so much destruction can only result in pollution and even loss of biodiversity.”      

Scripture: It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains and all the nations shall flow to it. People will say let us go up to the mountain of the Lord that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.   He shall judge between the nations and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war any more.  Is 2:1-5,  Pope Francis: Our world has become so multipolar and at the same time so complex that a different framework for effective cooperation is required.  It is not enough to think only of balances of power but also of the need to provide a response to new problems and to react with global mechanisms to the environmental, public health, cultural and social challenges, in order to consolidate respect for the most elementary human rights, social rights and the protection of our common home.  LD 42.  War is a defeat. Always.  Reflect, share, and pray:   As we prepare for Christmas let us redouble our efforts, fast, sacrifice and pray for our suffering brothers and sisters, especially the children.