It is so easy to take sides, to show our approval by clicking like on Facebook when we see opinions or memes posted about the crisis in Gaza that supports our viewpoint. Palestinian theologian Yohanna Kanatacho, who is a lecturer at BMS partner Bethlehem Bible College, believes this approach is not helpful in finding a solution. He believes we should lament and cry.
“The Book of Lamentations talks about a situation very similar to what is happening in Gaza,” Yohanna says. “I’m trying to seek God through my tears, seek my humanity through my tears as well as the tears of others. We as human beings are unique, we can cry, we can feel our pain but our humanity becomes even deeper and stronger when we start to feel the pain of other people around us.
“Many times when we start arguments of who’s right and who’s wrong, it becomes so difficult and we don’t get to solutions,” he says. “But perhaps instead of starting our interactions with arguments and reading different newspapers, perhaps we can just cry with people who are suffering and not just cry with our friends but also with our enemies.”
This became a reality for Yohanna earlier this week when he attended a prayer meeting at a Messianic Jewish congregation in Karmiel, north Israel, where together both Palestinians and Israeli soldiers were praying for the situation in Gaza.
“We were not discussing our political views or perceptions but we were crying before the Lord and interestingly everyone was expressing a spirit of repentance, saying God we have sinned by not considering other human beings. How they embody their repentance I will leave up to them. It is a very positive step what these people are admitting. That something wrong is being done.”
Yohanna has students in Gaza who are suffering from electricity blackouts and lack of food and water. The church in Gaza is right next to a police station, a prime target for bombing, making many Christians there fearful. He believes that both sides are pursuing the wrong course of action.
“I think the missiles coming from Gaza against Israeli towns is something very disturbing and should stop,” Yohanna says. “At the same time the killing of innocent civilians is also unacceptable and needs to stop, and the way forward is peace negotiations.”
He also believes that cultural transformation, changing hearts and minds will achieve more than the politicians will.
“The more people contribute towards spreading a worldview of peace and justice, the easier it becomes to transform the culture,” Yohanna continues. “People are putting so much emphasis on political agreements and very small emphasis on cultural transformation. I think we need to work on cultural transformation as there is a lot of hate speech, a lot of anger.”
Yohanna has written a poem, Cry with us (see below), which he is happy for churches to use as they pray for the situation and cry with them at this difficult time. He believes people in the UK and around the world can help change the situation in Israel-Palestine.
“Crying is not sincere if it is just an expression of emotion,” he says. “Crying is a mode in which we express a transformation of a worldview, in which we express a commitment to move forward towards a better future… an active response to a Middle East that is so bloody and so disturbed. How can we respond to the reality? If we respond with selfishness we will continue the cycle but if we start responding with crying and expressing disgust at what we encounter, then there is hope we might start receiving a different reality.”
Cry With Us
This is a season of weeping and mourning, but it is not void of hope.
Our tears are the bridge between brutality and humanity;
our tears are the salty gates for seeing a different reality;
our tears are facing soulless nations and a parched mentality;
our tears are the dam preventing rivers of animosity.
For the sake of the mourning men, cry with us to reflect your amity.
For the sake of the poor children, cry with us demanding sanity.
For the sake of lamenting mothers, refuse violence and stupidity.
Love your enemies and cry with them is the advice of divinity.
Bless those who curse is the path to genuine spirituality.
Pour tears of mercy; compassion is true piety.
Pray with tears, for the sake of spreading equity.
Followers of Jesus: crying is now our responsibility.
But don’t cry for your friends only;
but also for your Enemy.