We have just had the centenary of the First World War: August 4th 2014. The first casualty recorded death from UK was John Parr aged 17 who had lied about his age to join the army, the first but not last tragic waste of a young life.
Wikipedia states 'The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was over 37 million. There were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded ranking it among the deadliest conflicts in human history.'
It was supposed to be the war to end all wars; tragically this has not been true.
The most recent catastrophe is the war in Gaza, it's received lots of headlines, lots of outrage (rightly so), lots of disputed information from both sides and cries of propaganda bias again from both sides.
My information when I was younger came from those who I thought knew more than I did. From parents, to friends, school, higher education, generally most news channels and the daily newspapers. And finally for me the most important place was the church, the pastor, elder, youth leaders. They all in some way shaped my thinking especially my thinking about God and theology and ultimately how I was to assimilate information, which often meant through the bias of the teaching that I had received.
Fast forward to today and the way we receive our news and information via Facebook, Twitter, emails, news on line, often as it is happening, is a whole other world.
I say all this because I believe there is no excuse for not knowing certain things. Now I am aware of mis- information and propaganda, as I have said the news is full of 'biased reporting'. It is quite clear that whatever side you lean towards that thinking will be reinforced by what you watch and read.
I have been very vocal on my Facebook and twitter timelines raising awareness of the conflict in Gaza. I am pleased that collectively this has lead to a worldwide outrage at the actions of the Israeli army under instructions from their government.
Unfortunately this was not soon enough for the 1,800 dead and 10,000 terribly injured and maimed; plus a decimated and ruined infrastructure in this already occupied territory.
Over this time I have been acutely aware for the most part, of no condemnation of Israel from many in the Christian community at the indiscriminate killing of civilians; mostly women and children.
It's not that there has been nothing at all but most of my discourse has been with those who for some reason saw my raising the atrocity as anti-Israel.
I must confess to feeling increasingly frustrated with this unquestioning loyalty. If we are going to question anything I am not sure how standing up for peace can be questioned as the problem in this conflict.
From the conversations I have had online, I have received no satisfying answer about the children who are being killed daily and why we should not be raising our collective voices to let Israel know they have gone too far and need to stop this abhorrent action.
To combat the above I have read and heard on the news reports; 'Israeli people love their children more than Palestinians'- we know this because they use them as human shields. So goes this mantra.
Golda Meir said- 'Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us'. I have seen this on quite a few Christians status updates.
Of the 1,800 plus deaths- 400 were children and 80 % of these approximately said to be civilians. Many more terribly injured, children orphaned, whole family groups dead. I have seen so many photos and news stories of abject and utter misery that it is very clear this is just not true.
But what does it take to make your change your mind?
After all if your construct relies heavily on Israel being only ever for peace, this must be very difficult to equate with what you are seeing.
If this information is available are we not beholden to read and search wider to see what it may mean, after all this is life and death for those involved.
The three monkeys of 'see no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil': show that we cannot and should not look away, we must watch and listen wider than just our own selected group who only affirm what we want to see, speak and hear.
unfortunately evil still scurries around doing what it will. Our ignorance is no excuse, after all the information is there to view and read. Choosing to ignore the breadth of information is surely choosing to stay limited.
I stand dumbfounded with continued reading and 'you tube' links like this one by Dennis Prager- described as right wing conservative, saying that the conflict is very easy to understand ('one people- the Arabs, wants the other people, the Jews - dead) appearing with a very biased pro-Israel view on timelines of people who I know to be extremely warm and loving people. This story is a lot more complicated than he would suggest and to name this group of people Arabs is to take away their personhood as those who are Palestinian and had a land once that was forcefully taken away from them.
There are many independent organisation UNWRA, UNICEF, RED CROSS, OXFAM, who have spoken out against the disproportionate actions of the Israeli army. Only tonight on the news on Channel 4 at 7pm; a doctor with the Red Cross taking a child over the borders for urgent heart surgery, when asked the question about the targeting of hospitals and medical staff, answered a clear, YES.
This evening my husband Alan wrote of the biased reporting of the BBC coverage that showed nothing of the destruction in Gaza, but only the demonstration by pro- Hamas party. A comment on his update from a senior UK pastor " Wow saying BBC, yet to me they are completely anti- Semitic. And I have no drum to bang".
Really 'no drum to bang'? This is driven absolutely by a view that Israel are bring treated unfairly, and I would suggest to that Pastor at least be honest about your bias.
I raise this for my own personal reflection, I say to my shame I knew nothing of the last war in 2009 in Gaza. But this time I do; I have looked and read and studied the history of this region: and I will continue to do so.
I have seen with my own eyes the atrocity, the statistics of dead and injured speak for themselves.
This battle thousands of miles away brought into my life by the technology I use. I cannot now, not know, it matters that I act to raise awareness and to continue to speak out for peace to have the final word. Check out this link from American journalist Alison Weir on You Tube speaking about her time in Gaza in 2008 if you want to hear another side to this story.
For you, like me when you have heard and seen, the same rule applies. You cannot, not know, this information.
I would also ask my fellow Christians to think wisely before they post links that are obviously 'Anti-Muslim' I have seen some that I feel are more to insight violence and an 'us and them' mentality: than to bring peace. Please check the source for your links. I have seen one a photo of a middle aged man supposedly proclaiming his marriage to a very young girl. I checked out the source and it was an 'anti-Muslim' group who wanted ALL Muslims dead.
I know there is a battle waging in Iraq and Syria, it seems most have found it easier to defend the lives of their fellow Christians facing persecution. I know this because many have changed their photo on Facebook to this: a ن, the Arabic letter for N, which jihadists have been spray-painting on the homes of Christians in Mosul, thus identifying the families as "Nazarene" (the word for Christian in the Koran).
We have to be so careful to not place every peace loving Muslim in with the extremist groups waging civil war in these countries. If we are 'Christ followers' then let these words of Jesus guide us today:
"Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me ."
And Jesus when speaking to the crowds said 'blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called, the children of God'.
Today I choose peace, following Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
In the past we have put our hope in a war to end all wars maybe now we now need to find a way to bring peace; ALL PEACE.