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Day 12, Day 6, Day 1

I’m at my keyboard six days after the people of Israel suffered a horrendous attack in which at least 1,200 civilians were brutally murdered. The Israeli response has been swift and harsh with estimates of 1,300 inhabitants of Gaza killed. By the time this article is posted those numbers will most certainly increase.

I’m sitting in a coffee shop. At a nearby table sits a group of men deep in conversation. Their conversation sounds intense. Some are animated. One is loud. Another gesticulates with dramatic hand gestures while a younger man sits quietly and appears to have tears in his eyes. I am drawn to them but attempt to mask my interest. I recognise they are speaking Arabic, so I cannot understand what they are saying. Given the context of the last six days, my imagination wanders…

Twelve days ago, in a country within the Middle East, I was sitting in a room with a group of different Arabic speaking men. That room was full of people who were leading churches in parts of the world where their activity and message put their physical safety at risk. Now, 12 days later, I recall the feelings of humility, respect and honour I felt simply to be able to meet these courageous men of passionate conviction.

Over the past six days I’ve found myself conflicted and confused at much of the public reaction to the heightened violence within the Middle East. I’m surprised at the black and white positions put forward by many. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised – our society is increasingly polarised. But I cannot help but wonder at the lack of nuance in much of the public discussion, especially in relation to a region with such historical complexity.

I am a Christian. I think I am mature enough to understand that my ethnicity, nationality and economic position each play a role in my biases and perceptions. But, hopefully, my identity as a child of God has a stronger influence in my worldview than any of these.


My aim as a believer is to continually pursue my ongoing transformation through renewing my mind, loving God and loving my neighbour.


I am a humanitarian. My expectation is that all people, all ethnicities, all nationalities can live side-by-side in peace and with mutual respect. I do not want to see anyone suffer injustice, oppression or violence – full stop. I am even more confused when I hear people invoke the name of God to justify actions which are far removed from the character, nature and personality of God he chose to reveal through the life of Jesus.


Six days. 2,500 people dead. Where is this going? When will it end? Where are those who dare to act on Jesus’ words, “Blessed are the peace-makers…” (Mt 5:9), “…love your enemy…” (Mt 5:44), and “love your neighbour as yourself” (Mk 12:31).


Twelve days ago I heard personal stories from people who have committed themselves to a life of service for ‘the other’. These people are choosing to break down the dividing walls within their culture and society in order to build a better future for the coming generations.

In the coffee shop my fellow patrons are leaving their tables. I stop trying to pretend. I intentionally attempt to make eye-contact with them. Most don’t see me. But, as he slides in his chair, the animated one looks my way. We lock eyes. I nod a friendly acknowledgement. He returns my gaze with a nod and an ever-so-subtle smile. For a moment we have contact. For a moment we share a common humanity. It’s a small action. It won’t stop the bombs falling. But, is it possible, that societal change could begin with an action as small as eye contact and a smile?


Cover Photo: Sean Copeland, Tearfund Ireland