your ways are ways of gentleness and all your paths are peace.
Speak to the hearts of those intent on hatred and extermination.
Open the borders that aid may reach those most desperate.
Visit the hungry, thirsty, injured and terrified
with the transforming grace of your Holy Spirit.
Uphold all who have experienced horror and fear worse to come.
Empower the international community
that it may bring reason and understanding
to all amid grief and loss.
Make of this crisis a moment of truth,
that in devastation people may resolve on a different path,
and in despair people may find a new hope.
Change the souls of us all
that we might see through our enemy our only path to you.
In Christ who was broken that we might be made whole. Amen.
St Martin-in-the-Fields upholds the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross
Join us for an hour of prayer and silence for all those affected by the conflict. Wednesday 5-6pm, in the building and on Facebook.
Thought for the Day
On Tuesday 31st October Revd Dr Sam Wells presented BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. You can listen again here, or read it below.
Good morning. Susan Abulhawa’s 2006 novel, Mornings in Jenin, tells of four generations of a family caught up in the story of the Holy Land over the last 75 years. The story hinges on two profound moments.
In the melee of flight during the 1948 war a mother is separated from Ishmael, one of her two young sons. Twenty years later, after the Six Day War, a soldier called David realises a prisoner called Yousef looks exactly like him. At the same moment, Yousef notices a distinctive scar on David’s face – a scar identical to that on the infant Ishmael who’d gone missing 19 years earlier.
The two men can’t unsee what they’ve seen. The tension in the novel is, when they’re going to recognise not just each other, but what this discovery is now going to mean for their lives and loyalties.
Reading the novel reminded me of a conversation I once had with the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He explained to me how the way to read the book of Genesis was through the lens of sibling rivalry. He highlighted how Isaac is pitted against his half-brother Ishmael, Jacob against his twin brother Esau, and Joseph against Judah and his other ten brothers. Sacks’ words made me see the conflict between the children of Abraham not as a clash of civilisations but as a fight between siblings.
That’s not to trivialise war. I have a friend whose lifelong struggle with his siblings is so intense it’s become the defining narrative of his existence. It’s primal. I never tell him it’s trivial.
It’s often said the war in the Holy Land goes back millennia; and there’s often a fight over when the story starts. But what seems to get forgotten is how inseparable the rival stories are. The point about the boy Ishmael who was brought up as David is not that his identity is really one or the other: it’s that it’s ineradicably both. To destroy one is to deny himself.
The lesson of Mornings in Jenin, and of Genesis, is that the easier path is for David and Yousef to settle for being enemies. That requires less imagination, less pain, less confusion. Both characters start by wanting to ignore the truth so they can continue to hate. But the lesson of the book, and of Genesis, is that eventually they must accept the fact they’re also brothers. No amount of hatred, or slaughter, can take that away. That’s what makes the book, and Genesis, a story not just for the Holy Land, but for all of us.
With every blessing,
Revd Dr Sam Wells