We Have to Fight for Our Freedom

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“Forgive us, Father, for we know not what we do.”

I am writing this post from my hotel room in the West Bank of Palestine. I can’t fully describe the feeling that swept over me when we crossed through the Israeli military check point into the Palestinian side and I saw the size of the wall that had been constructed as part of the ongoing strife in the Holy Land.

After spending the previous days intersecting with the ministry of Jesus in Capernaum and standing on the Mount of Beatitudes, reflecting on the Sermon on the Mount, the only thing I could think of as I wept was, “Forgive us, Father, for we know not what we do.”

We are staying in Bethlehem on the Palestinian side to bring resources where economic support has been choked off. Oppression and control lay thick in the air everywhere we turned.

Yet, despite the realities, the Palestinians I am intersecting with are full of love and kindness, despite their circumstances.

We spent some time at a Palestinian refugee camp as part of our learning experience. The camps are places of painful poverty. Their freedoms have been stripped and options for a future are slim to none.

Inside the camp, Hisham and Haman spoke to us. Brother and sister in spirit not blood, they are informal leaders in their community. We sat in a cold and stark room as they served us the best tea I have ever tasted and shared more of their experience.

– We heard the story of what it was like for Hisham’s family to be kicked off their land 60 years ago when Israel was first established. They had been told that they’d be displaced for two weeks and then could return home. Now, 60 years later, they have all grown up and had children and grandchildren inside this camp.

– We heard the story of uneducated women who have no ability to make any kind of wage to provide for their children.

– We heard the story of people unable to enter certain parts of their country without permits that realistically they will never be able to actually obtain.

– We heard the story of what it’s like to have no economy, no advocates, no belief that anyone with power is ever going to help them.

Hisham also said something I will never forget. He said, “We have to keep fighting for our freedom.”

We have to keep fighting for our freedom.

It could be so easy for these words to be misconstrued or challenged:

“But it’s not right to ‘fight'”

“God sets us free, even if man doesn’t.”

“There has to be an easier way to freedom.”

“If they would just …”

My instincts used to be similar, but now I believe those are words from people with privilege, power and the luxury of comfort.

When we are oppressed, if we give up the fight for freedom, we will lose. Human history (and church history, too) has proven this over and over again.

It reminds me of Martin Luther King’s prophetic words:

“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”  –Martin Luther King, Jr.

Demand is a hard word, but I strongly believe it means we will have to keep fighting for freedom.

Our freedom. And the freedom of others.

One of the most beautiful parts of Jesus’ call for us to cultivate the kingdom of God here, now, is that our freedom is never just for us. As we step into our freedom, our responsibility is to then participate in helping others live into theirs, too.

There will always be a cost when we fight for freedom, our own or others’. Maybe that is part of the cost Jesus said we’d pay for following him.

We may be called rebellious, angry, divisive, or even heretical. We may be misunderstood. We may be unsupported by people we had hoped would encourage us. We may get into trouble.

But to others we will be bearers of hope, advocates, lovers, justice-pursuers and freedom fighters.

An eye for an eye and the whole world would be blind. -Kahlil Gibran

My experience here in Israel and Palestine did not ignite something that hadn’t already been lit, but it did fan my passion for freedom for all people into greater flame. There are many people crying out for freedom. Some of those people are ourselves. Others are in our own backyards and all the way across the world. The poor, the hurting, the oppressed, the bound, the stuck–in need of help in fighting for freedom.

And as we fight for theirs, in all kinds of wild and beautiful ways that only God could pull off, they’ll somehow help us keep finding our freedom, too.

___________________________

Image credits: Neil Ward. All photos from the Palestinian side of the wall in Bethlehem.

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Kathy Escobar
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at kathyescobar.com and is the author of Down We Go--Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids. Her most recent book Faith Shift can be found on Amazon.com
Kathy Escobar

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  • Kimberly Pfauth

    Beautifully told Kathy! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. It makes those inner fires flare and even though it is uncomfortable at times…it’s good to get them ignited again.

    • thanks my friend, it is fun too see you here! yes to uncomfortable but passionate flames!

  • Celeste Lee

    Oh thank you for how you drew the picture for us! I felt myself standing tall again as I read your words. The battles have been strong lately. As I read, I realized I had faltered, slithered down listening to that inner voice that was saying this is just too much. But, no, it is not, we must “demand” our freedom, for it is not only for us, but all those in bondage. Thank you for the fanning of those coals into a bright flame!

    • thanks celeste and your post made my coals feel a little hotter. we need to share this passion with each other and remind each other it’s worth it. i love the reminder because it is so true, how easy it is to want to just give up because it’s so tiring and there are so many people who roll their eyes and just wish we’d be quiet, but may we always remember our dear sisters & brothers who don’t have some of the avenues we have for freedom. as idelette says, our freedom is all bound up in each other. peace.

  • Rana

    Praise God! I’m a Palestinian believer who has been tremendously blessed by this magazine and I have often thought about writing in and telling my story, sharing my pain of rejection at the Israeli border, the endless hours of interrogations for no reason other than to break me, to humiliate me, to keep me from returning to my homeland … the 5.5 hour strip searches in Ben-Gurion airport which happen to be in the very city both my parents were born and yet I am the stranger and alien to this land now, I am the “terrorist” even though it was my grandparents and their children who were forced from their homes, businesses, olive/ orange groves, their land, their livelihood and made refugees in 1948 living under trees until they were able to resettle in Gaza “where the fish was plenty and cheap” … in American churches I am the pariah, people blame me for Israel’s problems and question the authenticity of my faith, they ask me when did I “convert”? … to which I reply, “convert? from what? … Jesus is from Palestine …”

    I’ve suffered for years from pain, prejudice and rejection in the American church and have only recently begun healing and slowly trusting again … so glad to see this magazine shedding Light onto this issue. Thanks be to God!

    • Dear Rana, thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of your story here. It breaks my heart that this has happened to you and for how you have been alienated.

      Several years ago–before any of my kids were born actually–I heard a Palestinian Christian tell his story to the organization I was working with at the time, also sharing about life for people in the (then) Palestinian territories. The piece that has stayed with me was his comment: Why have our own Christian brothers and sisters forgotten us?

      Then, the part that really pierced me was when I learned what has happened is labeled a kind of apartheid. That shook me up big time.

      I am so thankful you are reading all the way from Palestine.

      Much Love,
      idelette
      xo

      • Rana

        Dear Idelette,
        Yes, I have often thought about you being from South Africa and Apartheid given that the situation is VERY similar to Apartheid in Israel/ Palestine. Palestinians are discriminated against in use of roads -there are Israeli/ Jewish only roads, there is discrimination in municipal services such as which communities/ neighborhoods get services such as running water, libraries, schools, schools are segregated, cities are segregated, housing is segregated even some grocery stores are segregated … and even me now as an American citizen I get discriminated against and interrogated, harassed and strip-searched by Israeli officials when traveling through Israel while my fellow American brothers and sisters who are not of Palestinian ethnicity are welcomed and embraced. Funny thing is most people, especially Israelis and Jews assume I am Jewish/ Israeli just by looking at me. We are really very similar … realistically my family just may be of Jewish background going back to the early church.

        I actually write to you from the USA but the story is the same and pain still the same for myself and countless other Palestinians. I have lived in the Middle East and spent many hours, days struggling with the humiliation of Apartheid and my identity.

        And, yes the greatest pain for me has been why have Christians forgotten us and betrayed us even by supporting Israeli settlers, violent wars, violence in general, Apartheid, end times theology that favors one ethnic group over another …

        Jesus came to tear down that dividing wall and reconcile Jews and gentiles to God and to each other … it breaks my heart to see that barrier wall like a snake, a serpent dividing that which Jesus came to reconcile and restore shalom.

        Thanks for the love 🙂

        grace and peace,
        rana

    • rana, thank you so much for sharing your story. it made me cry. it is so important for others to hear it, what it’s really like, and there’s no one that can tell it better. our hearts break with you! i hope that more and more people will begin to understand the realities instead of rely on only what we’re told. that disconnect is a painful & dangerous one, and i hope that new bridges of understanding and tangible advocacy can be built. peace and hope and love and courage and healing from across the miles, kathy

      • Rana

        Thank you Kathy for going to the West Bank and seeing the situation for yourself! That is what Palestinians, Israelis, Truth and Reconciliation needs … we need people like you to come and see the Truth and bring it back to others because we can’t rely on the powers of this world, I’m not being cynical but I see that our struggle is not merely flesh and blood … We need prayers, we need reconciliation that only comes from God, we need believers to see this reconciliation as part of the mission of reconciliation that God wants all believers to participate in … … Palestinians want peace and not just the believers, imagine what grace that would be to have Christians healing and restoring shalom in the Holy Land … Lord have mercy!

  • Dear Kathy, I cannot tell you how much I love that you are bringing this perspective from your heart, straight from your hotel room in the West Bank. Thank you, friend, for telling us what you see.

    • thanks my friend. you know the realities of apartheid and that was the word that was used so many times in different ways. thank you for all you do to call others to freedom. as you say, our freedom is really bound up in each others. love and hope.

  • Makeda

    This was such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your experience and for the reminder that we have a responsibility to help the voiceless find their voice and their freedom. Thank you.

    • thanks makeda. i really appreciate you sharing. that is my hope that the voices that have been buried & unvalued & ignored could raise high & loud & strong & free over time. peace.

  • Thank you sister. I was there in November and had a similar experience. Let’s have lunch and compare notes. xo

  • I have been deeply touched by your article, both in shedding light and perspective on a situation I knew little about, and on a deeply personal level. It continually amazes me how God chooses to use people and the depth of Him and His love. On my blog, we discuss how we can Walk Agape love out in life, modelling Jesus. Your article raises that question over and over in my mind: “How can we, as Western believers, Walk Agape in Palestine?” How can we love better? How can we shed light on the situation? Are there organizations bringing aid that we can support? Other places we can get real, on-the-ground information?

    Thank you for having this discussion and for SheLoves to featuring it!
    Related blog post: http://www.walkagape.org/2013/02/freedom.html

    • thanks so much for sharing. beautiful thoughts on your blog, too. i will ask my friend who lived there for years & has a lot more knowledge about on the ground work to see if she can share any specific organizations, etc. unfortunately my time there was quite short and they weren’t associated with any specific organization but rather relationships they had formed with people over time. we didn’t meet with them specifically but i did discover through a conversation some of the work being done by quaker friends: http://afsc.org/

  • Stephanie

    Powerful words, as always. Thanks for sharing your experience.