Last night at the Holy Sepulcher was a zoo, but a very international and cross-cultural one. The Latins were from every nation. I chatted with a number of the Franciscans (from Poland, Latin America, Ireland, and Italy), lots of the French, the German Benedictines, and even met an Englishman doing research at the Kenyon. Since the Orthodox are celebrating their Easter at the same time we are, the place was unusually crowded and chaotic (which is saying something for the Holy Sepulcher!) Holidays can be frenetic and depressing, but this Triduum has been joyful and prayerful. Thank God. . .I agree: it is hard to imagine a just and peaceful end to the grinding Israel-Palestine conflict. And hard to imagine the church--so divided and territorial (for which the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the perfect metaphor)--nudging fearful Jews and Muslims toward peace. That would be like a man with a log in his eye pointing out the log in someone else's.
I must admit I have very little hope for the political situation here. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians have governments that are capable of making the pragmatic and honest decisions necessary for peace. . . For mental hygiene, I pray for peace and avoid engaging any passion in the question.
Not that Jesus lacks agents of reconciliation in the Middle East. Archbishop Elias Chacour wages peace through education in Ibillin, Galilee. From the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem, His Beatitude Michel Sabbah challenges Palestinians and Israelis alike to pursue justice. Salim Munayer gently guides Jewish and Arab Christians beyond prejudice, suspicion and sterotype. But lights like these flash against a dark sky.
Dare we hope for a day when Christian unity would be so evident, when Christian dialogue would be so respectful, when Christians convictions would be so clear--across traditions, in Jerusalem--that the world would hasten to invite Christian leaders to broker a lasting peace between warring Middle East factions?
Dare we not?