A REFLECTION ON IRAN’S ATTACK ON ISRAEL: PERSPECTIVES FROM AN ANABAPTIST PEACEBUILDER IN MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES

Last Saturday, 13 April 2024, at around 20:00 GMT, Iran launched a massive aerial assault on Israeli territory, marking the first-ever direct attack from Iranian soil. The attack, dubbed Operation True Promise by Iran, comes just two weeks after an Israeli strike on its consulate in Syria. The Iranian assault lasted approximately five hours. Explosions reverberated across Israeli cities, prompting air raid sirens in over 720 locations as Israeli forces scrambled to intercept the projectiles. This drew applause from many Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday as rare payback for the Israeli offensive on their enclave. While many of my fellow Christian leaders are beating the war-drums calling the US and the Western powers to strike back at Iran, many of my Bangsamoro friends and colleagues celebrate Iran’s attack. Although I understand and sympathize with my Moro brothers and sisters as they perceive the Iranian military action as justice for the Palestinians, my inner conviction calls me to be faithful as active, nonviolent justice advocate and peacebuilding worker.

Solidarity with the Palestinians

As a peace and reconciliation worker, I have witnessed the devastating impact of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and the violence of Zionist Israeli occupation of Palestine. A Palestinian response to this attack on Israel by Iran was quoted by Al Jazeera: “Whoever decides to attack Israel, dares to attack Israel at a time when the whole world acts in its service, is a hero in the eyes of Palestinians regardless of whether we share their (Iran’s) ideology or not,” said Majed Abu Hamza, 52, a father of seven, from Gaza City. Deep in my heart, I hear him and sympathize with him. “We have been slaughtered for over six months and no one dared to do anything. Now Iran, after its consulate was hit, is hitting back at Israel and this brings joy into our hearts,” Abu Hamza added.

Reuters reported that Iran and its regional proxies, who are aligned with Gaza’s Hamas Islamist leaders, have expressed support for the Iranian strike. Syria and Yemen’s Houthi group deemed the attack legitimate, while Iran’s ally Hezbollah in Lebanon hailed it as “brave.” Videos circulated from the enclave depicted many residents, including those within displacement tents, expressing jubilation as the skies were illuminated by Iranian rockets. Chants of “Allah Akbar” (God is the Greatest) resonated, underscoring the emotional response to the attack. I felt the smile on my face while reading this news item.

The U.S. strongly condemned Iran’s missile and drone attack on Israel and credits U.S. military support and Israel’s own defenses for successfully downing most projectiles. President Biden reaffirmed America’s commitment to Israel’s security, plans to coordinate a diplomatic response with G7 leaders, and remains watchful of further threats. After reading the official statement of the White House, I promptly uttered my on-going prayer: “Oh Creator, God of Peace, I pray for the liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. I’m praying that all the systems and structures perpetuating the oppressive and genocidal actions of the Zionist Israel, being enabled and supported by the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia, and other complicit allies, would be dismantled.”

Double Standard

Britain, France, and Germany swiftly condemned Iran’s drone and missile attack against Israel, issuing statements late Saturday night through early Sunday. The director for Western Europe at Iran’s foreign ministry, however, accused the three countries of practicing “double standards.” This accusation stemmed from their recent opposition to a Russian-drafted UN Security Council statement that would have condemned Israel’s attack on Iran’s embassy compound in Syria.

The attack in question resulted in casualties, including several members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, an entity viewed by the West as a terror group. Iran’s accusation suggests a perception of inconsistency in the stance of these European nations regarding acts of aggression in the region.

While the Western Powers condemn the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a “terror group,” they applaud the Israeli Defense Forces — who have killed over 35,000 civilians in 6 months, 70% of them are women and minors — as “the most moral army” in the world.

A profound impact on me by a man of peace

In the midst of these violent geopolitical dynamics, I firmly stand as an active nonviolent justice advocate and peacebuilding field worker.

A pivotal figure in shaping my commitment to an active nonviolent approach to justice and peace was the late Siegfried Bartel (06 January 1915 – 11 February 2016). Bartel’s remarkable journey from a German army officer to a passionate advocate for peace left a profound impact on me and countless others, specifically among my senior staff and leaders at PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI).

Born on 06 January 1915, Bartel’s life took an unexpected turn as he transitioned from a career in the military to becoming an influential Mennonite figure in Canada. His transformation encapsulated a profound shift in values, as he embraced principles of nonviolence and reconciliation in the face of conflict and strife.

In his book “Living With Conviction: German Army Captain Turns to Cultivating Peace,” Bartel exemplified the transformative power of personal conviction and moral courage. Despite his background in the military, he courageously embraced pacifism and dedicated his life to promoting peace. His experiences undoubtedly provided him with a unique perspective on the futility of violence and the importance of seeking alternative paths to conflict resolution.

As an influential Mennonite figure in Canada, Bartel played a crucial role in advancing the principles of peacebuilding within his community and beyond. Through his advocacy and leadership, he inspired countless individuals to embrace nonviolent means of addressing injustice and fostering reconciliation.

Bartel’s legacy serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who strive for a more just and peaceful world. His commitment to active nonviolence reminds us of the power of individual action in effecting positive change, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Though he may no longer be with us in body, Bartel’s spirit lives on through the enduring impact of his advocacy and the countless lives he touched. His legacy continues to inspire future generations to work tirelessly towards the realization of a more peaceful and just society.

“War is hell!”

Every time I hear this statement through various literature, I remember Siegfried Bartel. Because war is hell, I pray for the de-escalation of armed conflict in the Middle East and on various conflicted communities around the world. My desire for justice for the Palestinian people is not a reason for me to embrace war and violence. In the midst of the ethnic cleansing and genocidal violence by the Zionist Israel against the Palestinians, I stand in solidarity with the Palestinians who resist Zionist occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide through active, nonviolent approaches.

Realizing that war is hell, it becomes painfully clear that the true winners in war are the war industries, while everyone and everything else suffers.

Because war is hell, it is time for us to challenge the status quo and envision a different path forward. We must demand the dismantling and destruction of the war industry and all its infrastructures. We cannot continue to allow resources to be poured into machines of destruction while human lives are torn apart and futures are shattered.

Beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks

There is an ancient prophecy with a vision of peace for all of humanity: “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4).

I’m praying and envisioning for the transformation of those war resources into initiatives that promote holistic wellness and justice-based food production. Imagine if the technological and financial prowess that fuels war could be redirected towards building communities where every individual is nurtured and cared for, where access to nutritious food is a basic human right, and where conflict is resolved through dialogue and reconciliation rather than violence.

Holistic wellness initiatives encompass mental, physical, and emotional health, addressing the trauma and suffering caused by conflict. By investing in programs that promote healing, we can begin to mend the wounds inflicted by war and create spaces for individuals to thrive.

Similarly, justice-based food production efforts aim to address the root causes of hunger and food insecurity exacerbated by conflict. By prioritizing fairness and equity in food distribution systems, we can ensure that no one goes hungry and that communities have the resources they need to rebuild and prosper.

To achieve this vision, we need more than just prayers, hopes, or religious activities. We need action. We must come together as a global community to demand change from our leaders and institutions. We must advocate for policies that prioritize peacebuilding and conflict resolution over militarization and aggression.

We must support organizations and initiatives that are working on the ground to promote peace, reconciliation, and justice. Whether through volunteering, donating, or simply raising awareness, each of us has a role to play in building a more peaceful world.

The road ahead will not be easy, and the challenges we face are immense. One of the challenges are the spiritual or ideological leaders — whether Muslim, Christians, Hindu, Buddhists, Indigenous Spirituality, or non-religious — is to cherry pick from their own worldviews, spirituality, or doctrines the aspects that could be used to justify violence and war. We need more teachers and leaders who would be intentionally and actively non-violent in their teachings and pronouncements. If we, religious, spiritual, and ideological leaders, stand together in solidarity and commitment, we can create a future where war is no longer inevitable, where conflict is resolved through compassion and understanding, and where every individual has the opportunity to live a life of dignity and peace.

Let us not wait for change to happen. Let us be the change.

Permanent link to this article: https://waves.ca/2024/04/15/a-reflection-on-the-attack-on-israel-by-iran-perspectives-from-an-anabaptist-peacebuilder-in-mindanao-philippines/

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