Peacemaker by Jane Harries

Voices of Conscience Digital Story

Digital Story Transcript

October 2005. “We are not afraid…” we sang, standing in the shadow of the 8-metre high checkpoint gate controlling traffic into and out of Bethlehem[1], and kept firmly closed by the Israeli military. In the autumn sunshine hundreds of elderly people stood or sat patiently in groups, waiting for a sign that would allow them to pass through those gates to worship in the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem on this, the last day of Ramadan. They had been waiting since daybreak – without food or water. “O-oh, deep in my heart, I do believe, that we shall live in peace someday.”[2] Our song faded away. Silence…. then one of the waiting Palestinian women came up and hugged us. Several others did the same. The Israeli soldiers turned their backs, shuffling uncomfortably.

Half an hour later the gate opened, and some people were let through. Did the power of our song have anything to do with it? We will never know.

Fast-forward 7 years to another location in the Occupied Palestinian Territory – Hammamet al Maleh in the Jordan Valley. It’s summer and very hot – about 40 degrees centigrade. With my fellow ecumenical accompaniers[3] (that’s human rights observers) I listen and take notes whilst we are told how the army came and took away the Bedouin family’s water tanks, claiming that they were illegal structures. This is the more common task of the peace-maker – to be the eyes and ears of those who suffer injustice. It’s un-exciting and hard graft, and involves the peace-maker’s main weapon – the pen. Often we never know whether our letter-writing, lobbying and campaigning has been successful. It’s our vision of a more just and peaceful world that keeps us going.

As peace campaigners it can feel that we are always against something – against nuclear weapons, against the testing of un-manned drones, against the renewal of Trident. It’s easy to become negative and aggressive in our approach. This is why I belong to groups who aim to address the causes of war – by building bridges between people and working for reconciliation[4]. I support people in both Israel and Palestine who are working for peace.

The only thing we can really change is ourself. “Be the change you wish to see in the world” said Gandhi. For the peace-maker this means being peaceful and positive in thought, word and deed, even when faced by prejudice and violence.

[1] Bethlehem is in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and is now almost totally surrounded by the ‘security barrier’ – mostly an 8-metre high wall.

[2] Words of a peace-song from the 1960s: “We shall overcome”. Originally sung by Joan Baez.

[3] The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (Eappi) is a programme of the World Council of Churches, which sends international volunteers to the West Bank for 3 months at a time to monitor human rights abuses and to stand alongside those who suffer injustice and oppression because of the military occupation.

[4] Two example of these are ‘Women to Women for Peace’ – a women’s organisation which aimed to build bridges between women in the Soviet Union, Britain and the US during the Cold War; and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (Cymdeithas y Cymod) which works for ways to solve conflict at different levels of society through reconciliation rather than violence.

Further reading and resources

Women for Women Organisation and Charity

Peace Women Organsation and Charity

UNwomen and UNwomen for Peace

Fellowship of Reconciliation

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel



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