A reflection from the Holy Land

Professor Bart McGettrick was a teacher of Geography at St Aloysius’ College, Glasgow. He was Principal of St Andrew’s College of Education and then Dean of Education at Glasgow University and at Liverpool Hope University.  He is a member of the Grand Magisterium of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and chairs the Holy Land Commission.

In the ebb and flow of social change there are certainly times when one looks on a bleak horizon where menacing clouds gather. Whether this is at home or in other places it is clear that we need to seek a world in which the love of humanity has to overcome the pervasive selfishness and self-seeking advancement that characterises so much of our society.

My recent visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem brought closer those menacing clouds with some discomfort, witnessing them laden with the pollution and contamination of air thick with the stench of rotting flesh and raw sewage. It brings home the current atrocities being experienced in Gaza, in the West Bank, and in Israel. 

The current injustices being experienced in The Holy Land – whether the retention of hostages or the extension of settlements – create fear which is part of the menacing clouds, lying as a shroud over the communities there. In Israel, The West Bank and especially in Gaza numbers of displaced people are growing at an alarming rate. What also needs to be recognised is the import of around 100,00 workers from India and south-east Asia who are taking over the jobs once available for Palestinians.  The instability and uncertain futures of all these people must be a cause for our concern, especially the children who have no known parent left.

‘We need to ensure a society that recognises and acts to ensure human rights for everyone’

We need to hear the voices of those are passionate about the human condition, not only for themselves but for wider communities and the world. We need to ensure a society that recognises and acts to ensure human rights for everyone. Yet this is simply not enough!

We need to act with kindness. Jesus came that we live life and have it to the full. We need a spirituality that accepts the pain of the present and integrates it with the hope of the Gospel. That is the dual nature of what it is to be human. We will meet God at checkpoints, in the rubble, in the refugee camps, in the tents of the displaced, in confrontations with our enemies, and at the most challenging of places.

Our lives are made more complete by the right relationships which we form. This means walking with “the other” with respect and in humility, recognising that they too have their truth. Not only does everyone have their truth, but each person has a burden, an anxiety, a concern, a worry – some large and some small. So be kind…as the Lord would be compassionate.

In The Holy Land at present there is no cause for optimism but every cause for hope. So we ask, “What can we do?” Pray … and in times of election be courageous in seeking to be represented by people passionate about justice and motivated by hope.