Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al (livredor) wrote,
Not sheepish, but individ-ewe-al
livredor

Peace, peace to far and near

So my pal SS organized an interfaith peace service, for Jews, Muslims and Christians to get together in the middle of a big public square to pray for peace in Israel and Palestine, and to commemorate all the victims of the conflict. Making that happen took a lot of effort and skill at both logistics and diplomacy, so much kudos to him for doing it. He asked me to represent the Jewish contingent, so with some reluctance I agreed to do so.

The event took place on Monday evening, with a tenuous tie to Martin Luther King day in the States. It was snowing, but we had several dozen attendees all the same. And the event went off amazingly well; everybody managed to be sincere, even passionate, but kept within the spirit of the occasion, expressing nothing but respect and solidarity without politics or sectarianism. I am really proud to have been involved, and incredibly proud of SS for making that happen. And it was genuinely moving, not just warm and fuzzy as these things can often be (if they don't err the other way and use the prayer as an excuse for political soapboxing).

The Christians had the most varied contributions. One woman played a wind instrument of some kind, basically a horn made out of straw or light wood, longer than her arm's reach, and without any keys or holes, yet she got a tuneful melody out of it. They had a priest (who by the way comes from a rather well-known Jewish family) who read one of the fluffier, more universalistic bits of the Gospels and a prayer, and a young, self-described "radical" Christian who had helped organize the event and gave a really impassioned speech. And a Taizé style song something like So may all people live in freedom / into ploughshares their swords be beaten / the art of war no more to be teaching.

The Christians of course aren't so directly implicated in the issues, but tend to be pro-Palestinian politically; someone commented that our radical friend's speech / prayer was perhaps 52% slanted towards the Palestinian side, which was pretty good going in terms of putting common goals over political beliefs. They all wanted to pray for the oppressors as well as the victims, in a delightfully Christian way. Thanks in particular to smhwpf for turning up; sorry I had to run away before I could speak to you.

The Muslims provided the MC, a young woman who gave a very good introductory speech and ran the event capably, and a second who gave another passionate and moving speech; the former covered her hair and the latter wore secular dress. Also a sweet fluffy imam who chanted a section from the Qu'ran about how Muslims should respect the revelations given to Jews and Christians and live peacefully together.

The Jewish participation was SS, who was breathtakingly brilliant with both his introductory speech and his summary; and me. I wasn't very brilliant; I expressed some worry that I couldn't speak Swedish well enough to be a good spokesman, but was reassured that they only wanted me to read in Hebrew as the Muslims were going to read in Arabic. This turned out not to be the case, as the Muslims in fact did everything bilingually, so I felt a bit embarrassed just reading some mumbo-jumbo in Hebrew, but never mind. The initial brief said I should read a prayer for peace, but I felt uncomfortable picking a random bit of the liturgy to read out of context, and there isn't so much liturgy that would be appropriately sensitive for an interfaith service anyway; praying for peace for Israel would really be against the spirit of the event! So in the end I picked an obscure Psalm, 37, exhorting people to trust in God to defeat the wicked rather than resorting to violence and anger, and with lots of juicy mentions of justice, righteousness and peace.

We got a fair bit of media attention, including a report on the public radio (the radio journalist tried to provoke SS and his Muslim co-organizer into a fight, but they stuck to their line that they were trying to cooperate and rise above their political differences), and some decent write-ups in the Swedish media. (The linked article is from an online newspaper.) They report:
Muslims, Jews and Christians gather for a peace demo While media reports from wartorn Gaza was showing destruction, on Monday evening about a hundred people gathered in [the big square in the trendy part of] Stockholm to pray and demonstrate for a lasting peace.

The demonstration, intended to bring together Christians, Muslims and Jews in a united act, was a reaction to the way that people often talk about peace without following up with any action. The idea was the brainchild of Sebastian, a young man from the Stockholm Jewish community, who explains: 'Instead of grumbling I thought it would be better to try to do something concrete.' He created an announcement on Facebook, and the result was a a demo with a great outcome, which brought hope for peace and light in the miserable January darkness in central Stockholm...
Mind you, 5000 people turned out to protest against Israel on Sunday, which makes our effort look a little feeble by comparison, but there are a lot of reasons for that. I think it was worth doing if only to provide some sort of counter to the media stereotype that trouble in the Middle East always leads to hatred and violence between European Muslims and Jews.

By the way, if your conscience forces you to respond to this by claiming that all the war and violence in the world are caused by evil Israel with its evil empire of evil child-murdering ways, you're entitled to do that, but I'm afraid I'm not going to engage. Anything that even slightly hints at islamophobia will get deleted, though. I didn't take part in a hard-won interfaith initiative to encourage ignorance and prejudice.
Tags: jewish
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