A New Year's Blessing
New Year! There is always so much promise associated with the New Year. It’s a time for fresh starts and resolutions. It’s like you get to press a restart button for your life and have a renewed hope for a better world.
And yet, on this third day of 2014, I can’t help but think about the news coming out of the Middle East the past few weeks. A massive winter storm rocked the region hitting Lebanon on December 10th. Syrian refugees, living in makeshift shelters in the Beqaa valley, were burning shoes and anything else they could find, including toxic items to stay warm.  The same storm hit Gaza with massive flooding. Add that to the daily 12-hour blackouts due to the only power plant being turned off because of a fuel shortage.  Also, by 2020, Gaza may be completely uninhabitable. Already, 90% of the water drawn from the Gaza aquifer is unsafe for human consumption without treatment.  UNRWA reported that in Gaza, from November to December 2012, the number of people treated for PTSD or psychological trauma doubled. Nearly half - 42% - of the patients were under 9 years old.  I wonder what the statistic will be this year. Below is a picture of Gaza last month.
Reports are also coming out of Syria that Palestinian refugees are starving to death. Yarmouk refugee camp in the suburbs of Damascus is caught between the Assad regime and the rebels; the camp has been closed off for the past 6 months. 15 Palestinians have died of starvation, 5 this past week.  Also, in this past week, 2 major car bombs in Beirut, starting the day after Christmas, the bombing and assassination of a former US ambassador, Mohamad Chatah. People are shaken and terrified of what’s next. Yesterday, I woke up to the news of another bombing in the Hezbollah area of Beirut. I assume it’s pro Syrian rebels retaliating for Hezbollah’s involvement and support of Assad’s regime.
I’m crying as I write this thinking about the amount of pain and suffering happening with people all over the Middle East. And Beirut, my beloved city, I know only too well, the kind of panic and terror that sets in after a bombing. Doesn’t it seem like a lot? And this is only a sliver of what is happening, not only in the Middle East, but in the world. I thought and prayed today about how to I bless the Middle East, I searched books and the Internet looking for a New Year’s prayer or blessing. Nothing. And then I thought, maybe blessing them today is not giving up and giving into fear. To fight to believe that there is hope in the midst of such pain and chaos. Honestly, I can’t wait to get back there this summer. It’s time.
“What we would like to do is change the world--make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute--the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words--we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever-widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.” ~Dorothy Day