Friday, 19 November 2010

Walls: Pilgrimage Retrospective Part 4

Separation by agreement on equal terms, like the boundary wall between our garden and our neighbours' can be useful. But enforced separation on unequal terms can only be called 'apartheid' and lead to further injustice. When the Berlin Wall came down 21 years ago I felt a great sense of hope that the 'Cold War' in Europe was finally thawing. People previously separated were coming together.
It's so depressing to realize how many new walls of separation have since been built around the world. Constructing separation walls between people is now a world-wide growth industry.

Being confronted with the wall around the city of Bethlehem was a truly shocking experience for me last month, even though I'd expected to see it. I managed to photograph the wall, but not one of the many watchtowers which chillingly reminded me of a visit to Auschwitz a few years ago.

I've wanted to write about the wall shown in this photo since returning from a Holy Land Pilgrimage. I haven't until now, because it rendered me speechless. What can one say about such an ugly monstrosity and all it stands for - fear, suspicion, hostility, 'security' for some, gross injustice for others, harassment, deprivation, disruption, suffering, failure to reach agreements and learn to live together in peace? More than 6 years ago the International Court of Justice in the Hague ruled that Israel's separation wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was illegal, should be demolished and compensation paid. The General Assembly of the United Nations supported this opinion by an overwhelming majority. The wall is still growing.

Not living in the area concerned, it's easy to point the finger at 'them', however one defines 'them'. And I know I'm not qualified to comment on the complexities of the political//historical situation. So, I won't say more, at least not here. But this 'security' wall has also made me think about other separation walls between people, not all of them built of concrete and razor wire, with watchtowers staffed by armed soliders. Many walls are unconscious, erected in the human psyche to protect ourselves - attitudes of prejudice, fear, hostility, resistance to seeing things from the other's point of view. You know what I mean. Creating windows and doors in such walls, or even dismantling them takes work, willingness to change, to be vulnerable. And above all it takes the grace of God.

Reinhold Neibuhr's 'Serenity Prayer' comes to mind
"God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change, 
to change the things I can, 
and the wisdom to know the difference."
Thanks to a tweet from New Zealander Bosco Peters a few days ago, I came across this variation:
"God grant me the serenity 
to accept the people I cannot change, 
the courage to change the one I can, 
and the wisdom to know that it's me."

Image: my own



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