When words come easy, writing flows like a stream. It is cool and refreshing – clean. Today, my words struggle. They are brought forth with effort, like I am attempting to build a wall with heavy bricks. Every attempt at some reflection, some musing, some praise, is interrupted by a voice inside me, “but there’s a war.” I don’t know if it is the elephant in the room, but it certainly is the elephant in my head, and it is demanding attention.
The events unfolding in Israel are horrific. Seeing the news fill with footage of rockets being fired, bodies in the streets, stories of massacres, it is hard to find words to say. And yet, it feels necessary that something be said. But to what end?
I suffer no delusion that my words might impact decades old geopolitical conflicts. I am also keenly aware that, sadly, this freshest form of the conflict in Israel is not particularly unique. The list of countries experiencing some level of militarized conflict in 2023 is rather long. Some of these conflicts stretch back as far as the conflict in Israel. Looking at the situation through that lens, it feels disturbingly ordinary.
The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-profit started by Clionadh Raleigh, a Professor of Political Violence and Geography at the University of Sussex in 2005, collects information on dates, actors, locations, fatalities, and types of reported political violence and protest events around the world. Conflict in Myanmar has claimed over 10,000 lives so far this year and we’ve hardly batted an eye. In Somalia, nearly 8,000 people have died in forms of armed conflict so far this year.
I feel so full of questions with very few answers. Why do we feel so impacted by what is happening in Israel, yet detached from the conflict in Myanmar or Somalia? To be clear, my question isn’t to suggest we shouldn’t care about Israel. I have a whole list of whys about what is happening in Israel, or Myanmar, or Somalia, or Nigeria, or Sudan, or…. – questions that many people have devoted their lives to answering.
In June I gave a children’s sermon relating to a story from Exodus, when God tells Moses that “the whole earth is mine." We talked about the sacredness of the earth, and all the things on it, and how we sometimes forget that we are all sacred. I asked the girls what the world might look like if we remembered that it all belongs to God – that you, and me, and even the trees are all sacred. The first answer I got was “no wars.”
The troubles of the world can feel overwhelming. We may find ourselves impacted by this conflict, whether through connections of family and friends, or simply the need to process the news of these traumatic events. Things like this can make us feel helpless and hopeless. That’s how I was feeling when the memory of that children’s sermon came to mind. Searching for some shred of agency in the matter, I remembered what I told the girls. To see how the world might change if we remembered that all life is sacred, we remember and act like it ourselves. The more we look at everything and say “that’s God’s,” it can change things in little ways, and it might even change things in big ways. Maybe someday we’ll see, if we all remember that every person on this earth is sacred, maybe then there’d be no more wars.