Bassam, a Palestinian Muslim, goes around the world with his Israeli Jewish friend giving lectures on the importance of working for peaceful solutions to the conflict in the Middle East. His present way of life is such a contrast to his past. In his growing up years he was angry at the way his people were treated by the Israelis. From the age of 17 he joined other young people of his age and became a freedom fighter for the Palestinian cause. Because of his violent activity he spent 7 years in an Israeli jail.
One day while in jail he was sitting watching the movie Schindler’s List, a film depicting the Holocaust and the extermination of the Jews. He looked forward to watching it, as it would renew his sense of revenge towards his enemy. Instead, however, as he watched, he found himself crying and trying to prevent his tears being seen by the other prisoners. He began to feel pity and compassion; something he had never felt before for the Jewish people. In reflecting on this, he recognized that this became a graced moment for him. His life changed following this experience.
Bassam became friends with Rami, an Israeli Jew, whom he met at a meeting of those who take initiatives to bring peace between both sides of this bitter conflict. Now, they not only share their own personal stories of pain and the loss of loved ones because of the conflict, they also give witness to not allowing the bitterness and hatred from the past to fester in their hearts. They strive together by their words and deeds to answer hatred with love, violence with peace.
Are not the scripture readings today revealing that God is forgiveness and to be a disciple of Jesus is to know the reality of this wonderful gift. At the same time, just as we have been forgiven for our failures, it is to embrace a way of life that reveals this to those who have offended us. Along with Bassam and Rami, it is to be part of a movement that helps create a healing environment, where destructive bitterness gives way to forgiveness and the gift of peace becomes more of a reality in the world of our time.
Fr Martin Ashe, Parish Priest