The New Year's Promise
I sit here in mid-December, struggling to write a post about hope. December in America is overwhelming! Trying to find space just to sit and be quiet for a few minutes might be the most challenging aspect of my life. And as I still myself right now, I can’t help but look back at all that happened this past year—all the pain and all the beauty. They hold equal space in my heart.
January of this year was the announcement of funding cuts to UNRWA. UNRWA is the UN Relief and Works Agency that provides assistance to 5.3 million Palestinian refugees for the past 70 years. For most Palestinian refugees, UNRWA is the only source of food assistance, employment, education, and healthcare. Not only did the United States government cut all funding to Palestinians, they sought to remove the refugee status of Palestinian refugees. Effectively removing one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a peace deal for Israel/Palestine--the right to return for 5.3 million stateless people.
I watched as a vulnerable people group (one that I happen to love and serve and know!) were used and politicized on the world stage as a way of blackmailing Palestinian leadership to bend to our administration’s will. How can a group of permanent refugees (stateless, the most vulnerable of vulnerable) be squeezed, stripped of what little resources they have, and the world remains indifferent to their situation?
I don’t have hope for a political solution—a just, fair solution that addresses 70 years of loss. Which would return them to their homes and country, and the basic human right to live at peace with your neighbor. To find a solution that restores all of their rights. A solution that brings peace. Because you can’t just have peace when this conflict requires justice.
Yeah, not so much hope on that solution.
But, with all of that playing out on the world stage, I do have hope. Not in the world’s powerful but in the seemingly powerless. I have witnessed it over and over again. Those ordinary people who step out and put others over themselves for the common good. It’s not your physical beauty or wealth or power that makes you extraordinary; it’s how you use everything you are to benefit others.
This summer, I was in Washington D.C. for a conference of Middle East Women peacemakers from Israel/Palestine. I was on a delegation with them and it was an opportunity for me to meet others that I wouldn’t normally get a chance to work with in Lebanon or Jordan. Knowing these women, some of their stories, and how they are striving for peace gave me more hope than you know. It was a reminder for me that women are out there working and giving themselves to a cause bigger than themselves. It doesn’t make headlines but they are working in their own little corner of the world, and maybe, just maybe, they are the ones bringing the change and the hope we so desperately need.
This summer in Jordan, we set up a library for Hopes For Women in their Women’s Centre in Gaza Palestinian refugee camp. Full story is here: http://beirutandbeyond.org/blog/2018/9/25/dance
It’s a library set up by refugee women for refugee women. I was able to work shoulder to shoulder with the staff of Hopes to serve their community. I watched how these women have been poured into with mentoring and how it’s their desire to give it back to other women. Now, if that wasn’t hopeful enough, here’s the update on the library 3 months later. They have 183 members. That means there is 183 women from the camp that are registered in the online system and can check out books. They have also run two book clubs so far.
And if that wasn’t enough, a group of volunteers saw the library and the excitement it brought the community. They decided to set up a small children’s library in the Women’s Centre. This is for the special needs children that are going through a tutoring program at the Centre with Hope’s staff.
Do you see how that snowballed?
And finally, Americans. Yes, even you guys gave me hope this year. I have been overwhelmed with the support we have received. So many people attended our events to learn about the situation of Palestinian refugees. So many, some for the first time, donated their hard-earned money to make a tangible difference in the lives of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.
That is no small thing to me, that you would join with us, small in numbers as we are, to help others halfway around the world. So. Much. Damn. Hope.
We really are hungry to partner with others to do good, aren’t we? And maybe that’s the hope I have for 2019, our hunger and thirst for something real--for something meaningful. That we would work TOGETHER for good. No walls, no division, just an ability to see our own faces in all our global neighbors’ faces.
To the promise of 2019, may we welcome all the pain and beauty she has in store for us.
And may we never lose hope…
…in each other.
“Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all… As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”