• OPINION \ Oct 11, 2023
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    Sinful Violence in the Gaza War - Yohanna Katanacho
Sinful Violence in the Gaza War - Yohanna Katanacho

I have written so far two essay that can help us to pray for the current war in Gaza. But I feel that we need to provide some theological reflections for our prayers. Put differently, the purpose of this essay is not to provide a political evaluation of the recent war against Gaza. Instead, I seek to provide few biblical principles that has the potential to help us think, pray, and act in biblically compatible ways. Admittedly, the biblical data should be understood in its context and it can reflect multiple responses depending on the situation. Nevertheless, at the cost of oversimplification, I hope to highlight few principles that can guide us in most circumstances. These principles are written from a Christian perspective and are shaped by my own Palestinian contemporary Context.

1. It is wrong to deprive your enemy of basic food, medicine, and water. The Bible says: If you enemy if hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink (Proverbs 25: 21). Paul quotes the same verse in Rom 12: 20 in a context in which the word enemy seems to include social, religious, and political enemies (cf. Rom 13). The prophet Elisha led the army of his enemies into a trap. They became captives in Samaria. He then protected their lives and give them bread and water (2 Kings 6: 22). O Lord! Help us to protect the lives of our enemies and to show them compassion by providing their basic need for food, medicine, and water.
2. Killing innocent people is evil. The innocent people include children and all people who are not guilty of the evil act. This includes innocent Israeli citizens as well as most of the inhabitants of Gaza. Proverbs 6: 17 declares that God abhors the spilling of innocent blood. Isaiah affirms that those who spill innocent blood and are marked by acts of violence do not know the way of peace and there is no justice in their ways (Isaiah 59: 1-8). The prophet Jeremiah reminds the people that oppressing widows, orphans, strangers, and spilling the blood of the innocent is the mark of false religion. O Lord! In our human anger we have spilled the blood of our brothers and sisters! Change our hearts and help us to do everything within our hands to promote life not death.
3. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles (Proverbs 24: 17). The Bible calls us to act with compassion instead of rejoicing over the misfortune of the enemy. It is indeed sad that some use fireworks or dance when they see the misfortune of their enemies. Our heavenly Father, empower us not to judge others while our hearts are soaked with selfishness. Heal our eyes so that we can see the unnecessary suffering of our enemies! Heal our ears so that we can hear the cry for mercy.
4. Many people want to affirm the need for justice. In my opinion, reducing biblical justice to political or social justice deprives us from considering the fuller biblical picture. It seems that a better adjective would be missional justice. Missional justice is not self-centered. It employs the mechanism of justice to build a future that honors God and provide dignity for all humans. It heals the land from wickedness. Jesus Christ is the best embodiment of missional justice. Unfortunately, in wars we are tempted to limit justice for one side but missional justice seeks the best interest of the oppressed as well as the oppressor. We can see missional justice in action in Luke 4. The Bible says: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free. After these powerful verses, Jesus expands the concept of missional justice by two examples: a woman and a man. Both are part of nations that are in enmity with biblical Israel. But they are not the enemies of God. On the contrary they the recipients of God’s grace. Our heavenly Father, make me an agent of missional justice so that I can spread your Kingdom not mine!
5. The bible calls us to be wise. Wisdom reflects on the past. Palestinians and Jews have been killing each other for decades. The cycle of violence will not end by more violence. Wise leaders should consider a long-term solution that ends the injustice against the Palestinian people. Peace without justice is an illusion. But justice should be more than political justice. It must be missional. The future of both Palestinians and Jews is united by one land. Our heavenly Father, grant us the wisdom of peace, not war, the wisdom of mercy, not cruelty, the wisdom of love, not hate; the wisdom of life, not death; we need wisdom from above not from hell.
6. The politics of hate must end. The politics of hate is marked by stereotyping, a zero-sum mentality, violence, arrogance, revenge, selfishness, and fear. The politics of hate needs to be replaced by the politics of love. A political paradigm shift needs to happen to end wars in Palestine/Israel. The politics of love must affect our vision, our educational system, our media, and our dreams. The Jewish dream should not be the nightmare of Palestinians and vice versa.
7. Christians should not only pray in the light of the previous points but should also be peacemakers not warmakers. We should exemplify the politics of love by creating a country in which both Palestinians and Jews can live as equal citizens with dignity. The politics of love and missional justice seek to honor Jesus Christ in every possible way. Let us not rejoice when people die and go to hell but let us help not only in preserving lives but also in showing people how to truly live. Forgiveness, reconciliation, missional justice, love, peace, and dignity are all marks of a better life.
I hope that the preceding points can help us in praying as well as in acting as peacemakers in Israel/Palestine. May we avoid all forms of sinful violence. May God bless the Jewish people and the Palestinian people. May Jesus Christ be honored in both nations.