At the same time, I am thinking about the political prisoner Marwan Barghouti? Like many Palestinians, Barghouti was arrested at the age 18. In fact, there are hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who are under the age of 18. Barghouti received his high school diploma in jail. Then he was arrested again by the Israeli forces in Ramallah in 2002 and was sentenced to five life sentences. Like Shalit, many of Barghouti’s supporters held campaigns for his release. In 2008, the Islamic resistant movement Hamas included Barghouti in their list of prisoners in exchange of Gilad Shalit. Admittedly the details of the imprisonment of Shalit and Barghouti are different, yet both lost their freedom fighting violently against what they believe is wrong. Both were willing to kill their enemy in order to fulfill their “national duties”.
As I look at my scriptures, I find that many biblical figures were also captured and imprisoned. Joseph was imprisoned in Egypt (Gen 39: 20 – 23). Samson was also imprisoned in Gaza (Judges 16: 21), Micaiah was imprisoned at Samaria (1 Kgs 22: 27). In the first testament of our Bible, we also read about the imprisonments of Hoshea (2 Kg 17: 4), Hanani (2 Ch 16: 7 – 10), Manasseh (2 Ch 33: 11), Jehoahaz (2 Ch 36: 4), Jehoiachin (2 Kgs 25: 27), Jeremiah (38: 6), Zedekiah (Jer 39: 7), and Daniel (Dan 6: 16 – 17).
The second testament is also full of stories of people who were imprisoned, for example, John the Baptist (Matt 14: 3 – 12), the apostles in Jerusalem (Act 4: 3), James the brother of John (Act 12: 1 – 2), Peter (Act 12: 4), Paul and Silas (Act 16: 23), No doubt, the context and details of the imprisonments of the biblical figures are different from the modern story of Shalit or Barghouti, yet some of the biblical insights can light up our path today. How can we respond as Christians to the captivity of the Israeli Shalit or the imprisonment of Barghouti? What is the message of the church to two nations that are holding prisoners in their jails?
The rest of this essay will focus on two prisoners i.e. Joseph and Samson and will relate them to Shalit and Barghouti whenever possible. As we look at the story of Joseph, we see that his people made wrong decisions. They decided to get rid of him and even kill him because his presence is a threat to their plans (Gen 37: 18). They also planned to cover up their evil by creating false stories (Gen 37: 20). Joseph was hurt because his people were acting in ways that did not please God. The same applies to both Palestinians and Israeli Jews today. Both peoples downplayed the importance and the value of human lives at one point or another. We forget that an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian are both gifts from God. Further, seeking to get rid of the other led to creating false stories and to escalating the violence. It also led to many unrealistic visions of the future of our land. This land will continue to host both peoples whether we like it or not.
Barghouti as well as Shalit are imprisoned by a violent ideology that seeks to accomplish their goals via killing the other. But Joseph chose to be different. He decided to honor God by avoiding any evil (Gen 39: 9). He observed the sad ones among his enemies or fellow prisoners who obviously were not from his own people. He also sought to serve their needs (Gen 40: 6 – 8) and he even designed and supervised a plan that provides food and salvation for the nation that imprisoned him. Through blessing his captures God blessed his people.
On the other hand, Samson sought the way of revenge and violence. He preferred to die with his enemies. Unlike Joseph who decided to live and let his enemies live, Samson favored the way of violence and death. He wanted to kill as many as he can from the other side. It is interesting that both Shalit and Samson are imprisoned in Gaza but Shalit and Barghouti still have the choice to follow the path of Joseph and avoid the path of Samson.
My heart breaks when I see the family of Shalit missing their son or the family of Barghouti mourning his absence. I also see many other families in our country who are missing their loved ones. Violence has robbed many families their joy and tranquility. As Christians, we need to affirm our commitment to stand against violence, oppression, and injustice. We also need to affirm the message of mercy not revenge. I call for the release of Shalit and Barghouti demonstrating mercy; the tears of their families break the hearts of all of us. I also call for releasing Palestinian prisoners seeking to advocate a just solution for two nations who suffered a lot of pain for many decades. Will there be in our country men and women who will choose the path of Joseph, the path of mercy, justice, and peace with the guilty brother and the harsh enemy? Or will we continue to choose the path of the vengeful Samson that will bring destruction on all of us?
Lord, have mercy on both Israelis and Palestinians. Forgive us for shedding the blood of each other. May Shalit and Barghouti return to their families transformed by a theology of peace! May we all choose the path of Joseph and Jesus Christ the prince of peace!
Rev. Yohanna Katanacho, Ph.D.
Rev. Yohanna Katanacho, Ph.D.
You are supurb in showing how one needs to be fair and equal righteously to a prisinor no matter where he is!!It is so painful for both of them, may The Lord grant us mercy to both!!