WI’AM Means Agape


A tree grows beside the Separation wall in Bethlehem. Photo: Paul Gehrs

This reflection was prepared by the Rev. Paul Gehrs, Current Member and Past Chair of the KAIROS Board. Paul was recently in Bethlehem representing KAIROS  at the 5th Anniversary Conference celebrating the “Kairos Palestine” document.

I once took a session at the Centre at Naramata in BC that involved walking the trails near Naramata while reflecting on the spirituality of walking, the spirituality of place and the spirituality of, well, everything. On the first day of the course, our leader talked about grass that was pushing its way through the asphalt on his driveway. It is, of course, annoying to have your driveway damaged. However, he had enough perspective to be in awe of the sheer strength and determination of what we are inclined to consider a humble blade of grass. Of course, you don’t need to spend a week wandering trails to understand this. You can watch Jurassic Park, and you will know the tag line: “nature finds a way.”

Last week, I  had a very special visit with KAIROS’ global partner WI’AM, including their founder and director Zoughbi Zoughbi. It is too hard to explain here about the many special moments, so when you see me just ask and I can tell a longer story. For now, I will say this.

WI’AM Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center aims to improve the quality of relationships and promote peace and reconciliation in the community. Depending on the situation, they offer training, counselling, mediation, legal assistance or whatever seems necessary. They work with individuals, families and groups. In brief, they help people learn to listen with compassion and to do “conflict transformation.” WI’AM means “agape.”

The WI’AM Center is located in Bethlehem. It includes a building and courtyard. The Separation Wall built by the government of Israel is right beside the courtyard. Zoughbi emphasizes that they want the center to be a place where everyone feels welcome and safe. There is a playground for children. It is both intentional and symbolic that all this takes place in the shadow of the Separation Wall. Place is important.

“That is a walnut tree,” says Zoughbi. “That tree is undermining the wall.”

Immediately I understand. In my head I can see what roots do to sidewalks in Winnipeg. And I remember the grass determined to break through the asphalt in order to reach sunshine and air. It is both outrageous and true that a living root can continue to grow and expand until it undermines the integrity of a cement wall.

Peace, justice, truth, reconciliation and equity are not easy. Israel-Palestine is a complex context; in the five years since the Kairos Palestine Document was issues, things have gotten worse. Probably the contexts where you are called to listen with compassion and seek conflict transformation are also complex. Never the less, trees are undermining walls.

They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.

(Jeremiah 17:8)

Filed in: Spirited Reflections


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