Friends World Committee for Consultation - Europe & Middle East Section

Pre-Triennial study booklet: Being Faithful Witnesses: Serving God in a Changing World

Contents

3. Nadia’s Story

Max L. Carter North Carolina Yearly Meeting (FUM)

Nadia’s home had been raked by bullets from an armored assault vehicle the previous night as she, her husband and three small children had huddled, terrified, on the bedroom floor. A few hours later I stood with a group of Americans in the courtyard of the ravaged Palestinian house, listening to her story.

‘For half an hour we were under fire, and they call us terrorists! We have no guns, but a tank shoots at us in the middle of the night, and they call us terrorists! When we swept out the shell casings from our home, we saw that they were stamped “Made in the USA”. I hope all Americans burn in hell!’

What could we do? As volunteer workcampers at the Ramallah Friends Schools in the summer of 2001, we had come to the region to bear witness to the Biblical injunction to love and to serve. But now our ‘witnessing’ had taken on a whole new meaning as we witnessed terror and anger. As our group processed the event that evening back at the School, a clear sense of the right way to proceed came over us. Both Israeli and Palestinian peace advocates had told us that, on average, every man, woman and child in the USA contributes $20 annually for the military hardware that helps create the problem in the region. Symbolically, we gave $20 apiece to a fund for Nadia and her family to begin rebuilding their house. Augmented by other monies given to us by Friends in the United States for ‘emergencies’, the fund amounted to a few hundred dollars. We sent it the next day by way of a Friends School teacher who knew Nadia, hoping that she would accept it.

A few days later, as we were enjoying supper at the teacher’s home, Nadia called and asked if she could bring her family to see us. We were anxious to see them – in both senses of the word! Would she still be angry? Would she see our gift as ‘blood money’?

Our anxieties were quickly relieved. Nadia and her family were relaxed and expressed their thanks to us. After a few minutes of pleasant conversation, she asked, ‘Are Quakers Christians?’ I laughed, explaining that, in some circles of Friends, an answer to that question could take hours. We responded simply and directly, though, with a ‘yes’. ‘I thought so,’ she said, and then this Muslim woman reached into a bag and brought out Christian tokens to give to each of us: crucifixes from Jerusalem, a crusader’s cross, images of Bethlehem.

Only a few days before, we had the potential to be enemies: a Palestinian Muslim family ravaged by weapons provided by the ostensibly Christian United States and we – visitors from the USA. Our initial goal of ‘bearing witness’ to God’s love through service to others had become a deeply moving experience of witnessing the pain and anguish that requires reconciliation.

God’s message of the possibility of reconciliation was made visible: a token of love that came in the form of a crucifix given by a Muslim to a Christian. I may be the only Quaker I know now who carries a crucifix with him. It is a daily reminder of the reality of redeeming love.

Queries:

- What do we do to find understanding with people of faith communities that are different from our own?

- As citizens, what do we do if our government follows a policy which we believe to be wrong?

- How do you react when someone expresses anger?

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