Does faith have boundaries?

How is it possible that any one of us usually ethical, caring individuals can be at the same time unfazed by the continuous oppression and suffering of a whole people near or far from us? Perhaps our generalizations like “they’re illegals” or “they come from a terrorist country” do enough to soothe our consciences, and yet I wonder. We know that knowledge and awareness of an issue can prick our conscience and demand some action from us so is this perhaps the reason we so often turn our face and heart away from the “other,” from taking seriously the plights of suffering people?

Each summer when I take a delegation to Palestine it seems the delegates see with wider lenses. They see the victims and the perpetrators of human suffering. They try to process the scenes of the horrific border Wall between Israel and Palestine. This 708 K or 440 mile wall plays its part in allowing Israel to confiscate more Palestinian land, cause great stress and long delays at checkpoints and road detours. The delegation always experiences anger, numerous questions about American policies, and an infinite amount of sadness as they see racism toward the Arab population played out in the Occupation of Israel. They see Palestinians as the invisible people they are to the world when nations timidly call Israel to accountability for their violations of International Law.

The delegation sees children–both Palestinian and Israeli–growing up in this system under two legal systems: civil law for the Israelis and military law for the Palestinians. They see Palestinian children incarcerated in inordinate numbers. They hear stories of Israeli travel bans, marriage restrictions, land, water, building policies all keeping one population poor and foreseeing no future for their children. Going through checkpoints with green and white licenses for the Palestinians as opposed to yellow licenses for Israeli citizens usually means for the Palestinians long waits at the checkpoints, unpredictable amounts of time elapsing, affecting appointments, school studies, etc.

When returning home, it is difficult to get the ear of the ordinary American whose mind has undoubtedly been influenced by our media which tags people of Gaza automatically as Hamas breeders, as a people determined to “wipe Israel off the map,” as a people who use their children as human shields. That’s the narrative Netanyahu and his Likud party would like us to believe. With this kind of mentality also a part of our American culture, it becomes easy for us to dismiss the Palestinian casualties as necessary human collateral in war time.

Turn the tables. Would any one of us ever settle for such a conclusion upon the deaths of our own family members?

Where and when do our Christian or faith-based standards really apply? Are some people/s more disposable than others? While we work tirelessly to improve local conditions can we in justice forget our global responsibilities toward brothers and sisters who at the least deserve to be heard? Does the practice of our faith have boundaries?

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