During my time in Israel-Palestine, perhaps the single most uplifting experience has been connecting (or in some cases, reconnecting) with other people who work for human rights and peace from around the world. Pax Christi International concluded our world assembly in Bethlehem this past Sunday, and I cannot adequately express the joy and appreciation I have experienced in hearing the stories of my colleagues—their victories and challenges, the interesting and inspiring and effective programs they are undertaking, and the commitment they have to the work for peace.
Pax Christi International has sections and member organizations in countries on 5 continents. I spent my days with human rights workers from Burundi, Haiti, Peru, Belgium, Palestine and Australia. I joined sessions with advocates for peace from Uganda, Canada, El Salvador, Italy, the UK, and the Philippines. An international coalition of (by my count) more than 35 nations were represented as we joined with our Palestinian hosts, the Arab Education Institute, to commemorate Nakba Day on May 15 and conclude our time together with a procession along the Separation Wall in the Occupied West Bank followed by a closing Mass at the Wi’am Conflict Resolution Center.
Years ago, one of my mentors, Ched Myers, drew an analogy for what it is like for people who are working to make our world a more just, peaceful and sustainable home for everyone. He alluded to the book Gulliver’s Travels and the scene where the tiny Lilliputians are throwing ropes over the giant Gulliver as he sleeps, working feverishly to fasten the ropes and tie down every part of his body. He likened us to the Lilliputians and Gulliver to “Empire”, the systems of the world which endeavor to oppress the vast majority of humankind through greed and violence.
Viewed from the perspective of a single individual’s efforts, or even the work of a single organization, the work of peace seems all too often to be fruitless, pointless and ineffective. We struggle against powers far beyond what any one of us can match.
But there is hope in knowing that others, all across the world, are throwing their own tiny ropes and trying to wrangle the beast to the ground. There is hope in knowing that at every minute of every day we are working alongside brothers and sisters in Africa, Asia, Europe, and throughout the Americas who are doing their part. Coming together here and seeing their faces, learning their names, hearing their stories and holding their hands, if only for a few days, is empowering for me in a way that I did not anticipate. My back feels a little straighter after these days. My lungs a little more full. My legs a bit stronger. I am neither alone nor part of a small minority. I have partners, brothers and sisters in the struggle. We are many and strong.