Refugees

It is great to wake up in this season and enjoy the birds singing on my olive tree in the court yard. They call other birds to share with them the food, and the whole community of these birds is celebrating. These birds reminded me with their positive energy of Mary mother of Jesus.
 
Mary, our lady of Palestine looks unblinkingly at the realities of life daily experienced under empire… the rich oppress the poor, the powerful lord it over the weaker ones, seen and unseen walls of exclusion are erected, homes are stolen or demolished, lands are confiscated, water rights are violated, freedom of movement is restricted, access to holy sites is forbidden.
 
Palestinian refugees are still living in refugee camps since the Nakba in 1948 and some in 1967, and many have been refugees more than once. Refugee status should be temporary, but it has become permanent. Many refugees are in exile in their own homeland. All this Mary sees and bears witness to. Mary was a refugee when she, Joseph and Jesus went to Egypt, but they were able to come back to their homeland.
 
Mary understands the right of return for refugees. Standing in the shadow of empire, Mary sees and still bears witness, sings to God the Savior. She sings her full-throated confidence in God’s deliverance for the captives, release for those living under lawless oppression. God will, Mary sings, turn the world upside down, bring down mountains, and raise valleys – God will, where and in ways we do not yet see, bring down empire and raise up a new human community of all God’s people. (Adapted from Magnificat, Luke 1: 46-43).
 
After 46 years of occupation and denial of all basic rights, can I continue joyfully witnessing and singing like Mary?
 
In Luke’s account, the unwed Mary does not remain alone with her anxieties, but seeks support from another woman, Elizabeth. Filled with the Holy Spirit who exalts the violated, the two women rejoice in God’s liberating action. In the Magnificat, the pregnant Mary enunciates God’s salvation and well-being to the humiliated and downtrodden. The future of God’s well-being for all without exception is not to be awaited passively. It is being born in us today, from our flesh and blood, from our commitments and struggles for justice. It becomes the hope for those who do not have hope… Jesus opened his public ministry in another program of hope (Luke 4:18). Christian hope is a resistance movement for life and not against it; a hope is not something relegated for the future. It is for now, the present moment. To hope for justice means we have to work for justice, to hope for peace means we have to work for peace.
 
It was addressed to the poor, the prisoners, the blind and the broken victims. Yes, friends, how then can I keep from singing?
 
May this Christmas season be a time of renewal of our commitment and hope!
 
Friends, your gift of friendship is one of the greatest gifts I received. You brightened my days by joining me to light candles of joy, despite all sadness, candles of hope where despair keeps watch and candles of love to inspire all my living.

I will light the candle of fellowship this season; I know that the experiences of unity in human relations are more compelling than the concepts and prejudices, which divide.

Life keeps going on; life fulfills itself, and affirms the possibility of hope.
 
*Jean Zaru is the Presiding clerk of Global Ministries' partner, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ramallah and one of the founding members of Sabeel. She served on the Executive Committee of the World YWCA, Jerusalem YWCA, and on the Central Committee of WCC. Jean Zaru is the author of Occupied by Non-violence, a Palestinian Woman Speaks, and many other articles that have been published. She received the Anna Lindt prize for non-violence in Sweden.