Thursday July 17th 2014, 11:25 pm
Filed under: Friends,Life,Politics

One of the most important talks I have ever heard in my life. I didn’t quite know what to expect going in but came away going, wow. I want to live up to what I just felt in that room.

I’m not sure I can do it justice, but let me try.

She was born in Jerusalem but is not allowed to live there now. She is Palestinian.  She is Arab. She is Christian–and she is a Mormon. I had badly wanted to hear what she had to say, whatever it might be; how often do we get to hear firsthand the in-person experiences from that part of the world?

It was not a political talk, it was a human talk. She described a little of what it’s like to live where she does–and what it’s like to try to simply go to church. Church was too important to her not to go: church was where she held onto the Spirit of God, to help her follow the promptings of that Love beyond all human understanding. Her circumstances made it so very clear how badly that was needed in the world. “Both sides think the other is” she shook her head, “horrible. But we are *all* children of God.”

She’s the Primary president there, ie the one running the program for the little ones on up to age twelve.

There are four small congregations in Israel, and if you are Palestinian, she said there are people who live 15 minutes from one but they have to travel for two and a half, three hours to go to a much farther one, because to go to the one nearby requires going through a checkpoint and if you don’t have the paperwork that would allow it you simply can’t get there. And you might not be let through anyway. And that checkpoint would take two to three hours, always, as it is.

She told us this: “Picture someone most dear to you. Your spouse, your parent, your child. Someone you love more than anything.”

She let us consider that for a moment. And then she asked us to think of someone who had done something terrible to us, just egregious, someone we found hard to forgive. Then she asked us to picture those two people side by side and asked us, “Can you love them both equally?”

As that sank in, “God does.” And she put up a slide asking, Have you been

Sexually abused.

Seen someone killed in front of you.

Been shot at.

Had a relative tortured.

She told us, gesturing at those words, “I have.”

She told us what it’s like to be a Palestinian at a checkpoint subject to the whim of whoever was on duty at the time. She showed a picture of men lined up, heads down, hands against the wall, with an Israeli soldier armed and dangerous standing over them. They had simply been trying to go to work.

She was at that checkpoint to try to go to church. And it hit her that she could not live her religion and be angry at those soldiers; they were children of God just as much as everybody else on this planet. Love the sinners, all of them, we are all sinners, and she said it was not easy and it most certainly wasn’t instantaneous. It took a lot of prayer, constant prayer, over a long time, sometimes fasting to gain the strength she so much wanted to have.

And then the day simply, quietly, unexpectedly came. She had to go through that resented checkpoint as at so many other times. And yet. That day, she saw an Israeli soldier and found herself completely, utterly loving him as a son of our Heavenly Father, capable of such great goodness, the scene at hand utterly apart from what he truly meant to God. She saw the best in him and felt a love from God for his sake that transformed her.

And that is how she always wants to feel. It is so hard but it is so necessary not to lose sight of that.

She described the prayer of a four-year-old in that Primary: not asking for food, though Sahar knew their family did not have enough to eat, but for Him to watch over her mother.

We make peace one person and one interaction at a time. And that is no small thing.

2 Comments so far
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Thank you for sharing such important words and experiences.

Comment by Barbara 07.18.14 @ 9:36 am

If your post gives me chills, I can only imagine what your feelings were sitting in that room.

Sheds another light on life, for sure.

Thank you for sharing this experience with us!

Comment by Suzanne from Montreal 07.18.14 @ 6:08 pm

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