Of course it is a writer’s block that has had me in its grip since the brutal Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, children, babies, old and sick people. I myself, as a distant witness, not even an eyewitness, am numb for minutes at a time until things start to flow again. I’ll just start now, because this is not the only text to be written.
No sooner had we swallowed this appalling news like an ugly toad – perhaps we are still choking on it and writhing in convulsions as to whether we shouldn’t just spit it out and leave the matter to the politicians – than it came as it had to come and was perhaps somewhere, secretly and covertly, provoked: a first – as far as I know – attack took place on a mosque in Germany. Sure, you can imagine. The friends of Israel got going, affirmed their solidarity, reminded people of reasons of state, the first nationwide rallies in favour of Israel were planned and held. Is this actually being observed, noticed in Israel? Are they touched, comforted or do they think there could be much more?
The Israeli government is more or less making statements along these lines: tough action must now be taken. There is talk of cutting off the supply of water and other resources. Is Hamas now Hamas or Palestine? If Hamas is “just” Hamas, a brutalised, radicalised “bunch of fighters” who don’t seem to care about many things (ethics, their reputation), why is the whole of Palestine being punished? Because we don’t know where they are hiding? Is the aim to ensure that the Palestinians themselves, in their distress, track down the Hamas hideouts and betray them? So that everyone suspects a radical behind every Palestinian? Let them massacre each other! – Is that what is wanted, but not said?
However, there is a major problem: Jews would like to see their relatives who are in Hamas custody back home as safe and sound as possible and as soon as possible! This wish is justifiably at the top of the list and hinders the idea of war on the ground. For now. Because perhaps, one suspects, Hamas is setting the condition: Every attack costs the life of a hostage. Every Palestinian released from prison leads to the release of a hostage. In plain language, this means: first prisoner exchange, then revenge?
I think we can expect a lengthy process here too if nobody loses their nerve, along the lines of: we’re going to flatten everything now, accept the further losses, have shown who’s in charge here.
I continue to fantasise (it is NOT what I want!): The whole of Palestine would be in ruins, as seen in photos and internal images from Germany, Tokyo, Syria and Yemen – which cities/countries have I forgotten? -, are familiar. Anti-Semitism would flourish, the world’s Muslims would be enraged and the next war would be in the pipeline.
Who is helping out where with whose weapons? Someone said the other day that basically it would all come down to a war between the three superpowers: Russia, China, USA. Who has the easiest/best access to important resources and controls them?
To even think about this while people are constantly dying, including simply from hunger, thirst and untreated wounds, is so disgusting and insidious (the true motives are kept under wraps) that we don’t even need to think about the impositions of the climate. These will provide surprises and distraction from the course.
With all the war and demonstrations in front of arms companies, whose contractors are now shining again, in front of peace demonstrations in Büchel, Bremen, Nörvenich, soon Berlin, because there was a treaty that GERMANY SHOULD NOT BE AT WAR – where is the treaty actually? Ask Dr Drewermann! – nobody needs to worry about lowering CO2 emissions or finally driving at a lower speed on the motorway.
Is anyone worried about my soul in the face of this sarcastic tone, which some will call realpolitik?
You don’t need to. No need to worry. I cry from time to time, for example this morning.
I go to church from time to time, almost no matter which one, by the way. Read appealing, good, uplifting literature, articles, wisdom literature, poetry. Sit on a cushion for at least an hour a day with my eyes closed, trusting my breathing.
In the past, when I was still employed by the parliamentary group “The Greens in the Bundestag”, many MPs used to go to the nearby church of St Winfried in Bonn’s federal district – on Fridays, I think. Maybe they always did that before plenary sessions, I don’t remember. My impression was that it did them good. Sometimes the priest was more inspired, sometimes less. So what? I live in a city where Catholics dominate. As a Protestant by birth and a Buddhist or Zen practitioner, that didn’t do me any harm either. On the contrary.
I find that when it comes to really big issues that go beyond our individual capacity to understand or endure, such as birth, drastic losses and life transitions, important ethical questions and transgressions, guilt, serious illness, death and murder – war is collective murder – suffered or inflicted, usually both – then I want to feel safe in a community and a larger context of a “higher, good power”. If I have already done a good bit of maturing, I wish the same for everyone else. All of them. Even my opponents, so-called enemies, any haters. I wish myself and everyone prudence, that they don’t lose their nerve and start shooting around. That, if they are mentally impaired, they seek and find help or are taken into custody (therapeutic, forensic, psychiatric) for a while. I ask that they feel that they are in good hands in a kind, appropriate context. I wish them all to have enough to eat and drink, a place to retreat to that is reasonably safe – especially important for pregnant women and the sick, mothers giving birth and breastfeeding and mothers or relatives of young children, for girls and women when they have their period, for young people, the elderly and the dying.
To be able to write such sentences, which I hope sound reasonably sensible and acceptable, with heart and mind, I need quiet time. You also need, we need, places of retreat, spaces of silence to pause for a moment. Churches can or could offer that! Synagogues and mosques do too. These attacks on houses of silence, security and contemplation must be criminalised, including graffiti! Attacking JUST religious places is such a mess! It all creates fear and generates violence again.
Honestly, it would do us all good to go to the nearest church, especially BEFORE important conversations, appointments, trips – hopefully it is open and offers a cosy “corner”. I am an advocate of open chapels and churches* for the above reason. Such an exercise is ONE way to stay or become humble, or shall we say humble again.
Commit yourself to it. Say out loud or quietly a few lines from a favourite poem that clearly points to peace, generosity and patience, perhaps by your favourite poet or singer. In doing so, you are reminding yourself to move closer to a certain framework of decency, a way of de-escalation, of actively preventing the next step towards a warlike clash.
Believe me, I am 71 years old and have experienced, heard and seen a lot: It’s easier to live with a peaceful motivation, a mostly and sometimes “cleansed” good conscience, and I’ve heard it’s also easier to die. After all, you really have tried peacekeeping. THANK YOU.
I have one more suggestion for pastors, spiritual counsellors, deacons, presbyters and parish councils, etc: To equip each of the Christian churches, according to their possibilities, with a room of silence: sparingly interreligious. In which it is possible to have chairs, a few armchairs for frail gentlemen, perhaps even a couch for resting, for moving, so that visitors can sit comfortably and safely alone, in pairs and/or in a small group alone or together. It must be clear that silence is maintained and controlled, that this or an additional room can be booked once a day – for a discussion group, for example. – It would be important to me that bottles of water are available for purchase and that there is a water heater with cups and a few good teas: To clean everything up again myself after the visit. – It would also be important to me that citizens, neighbours and guests can help shape the event in an appropriate and creative way. Of course, with full respect for traditional prayer times and church services. – That much tolerance is necessary and should be learnt. However, I am firmly convinced that such experiments will bear fruit: Faith, silence, prayer, poetry and other arts are part of being human, it must and should be fun to go to church again! I remember the church in the centre of Middelburg on the Walcheren peninsula in the Netherlands, the “Lange Jan”, where I always found something inspiring or beautiful for both of us with my daughter when she was a child. Children, of course, had their own low furniture and handicrafts, and there were drinks and cakes for young and old at low prices. You might also ask teenagers what they would like to find in a quiet room. – That needs staff, you say? We’re sure to find it. If only we want to. If we really want to fill the churches with life and that also means: with new, unknown things.