Gaza City (Ansa/Mohammed Saber)

The only words that speak of peace

The events in the Middle East and around the world, a spiral of hatred that seems unstoppable. What does this drama have to do with us? And what does it take to be able to face all this?
Tommaso Agasisti*

We have all been shaken by what is happening in Israel and Palestine, by finding ourselves once again in a world that seems dominated only by violence, terror, death. The fact that these events are happening in places relatively far from us does not matter: everyone feels part of this spiral of hatred, which seems unstoppable, and in front of which we feel powerless and astonished. At the same time, it is impossible to refrain from asking a difficult and profound question: “What does this circumstance, this drama, have to do with me? What does it say to my life, to my present, to my destiny?". Taking this question seriously has led to several interesting conversations with students and colleagues in recent weeks.

In these dialogues, two factors in particular struck me. The first is that, on average, we have found ourselves short of information, data, historical knowledge of the situation. This seems to me to be a sign of the times: we want to have an opinion on everything – or rather, to judge everything – but we do not have even the information tools to do so. On such complex and tragic circumstances, we need to have patience, even say the humility, to read, study and investigate. How difficult it is to do so in the context in which we live! It seems that the format of information must always and only be a few lines, the headline, the post on Instagram. Moreover, we have a strong incentive to only 'mind our own business', ignoring the big issues happening in the world. How often do we give up reading newspapers or listening to meetings because “we are busy, we have to study, we have to work...”; it would be interesting to understand what it means to educate ourselves to a true culture.

The second factor concerns the type of information we receive from newspapers and television. Newspapers and the news are full these days of technical, political, social descriptions. These are decisive factors, of course. At the same time, the more one delves into what is happening through this lens, the more one realises the impossibility of glimpsing a solution that only goes this way. The most refined historical analyses, the most intelligent political proposals cannot offer themselves as a complete answer to the question of meaning that each of our hearts cries out for, when it looks at the tragic reality before us. After all, they seem to us to be right answers, but partial ones.

What to do, then? How can we be serious about the tragedy that is happening, without renouncing the depth and truth of our question of meaning? We need a word, a hypothesis, a hope greater than ourselves.

It struck me to reread Luke 6:27-38: "[At that time], Jesus said to his disciples: 'To you who are listening, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them [...] If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that […] But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”

It is an incredible proposal. It sounds like the words of a madman. Who can love one's enemy? How can one love someone who has killed your child, raped your mother, kidnapped your friend? It is impossible. Yet, these are the only words that are different, true. The only words that are steeped in hope, not in the illusion of an impossible peace. The only words that are filled with unconditional love, not hate. The only words that promise a reward (a great reward!) and not revenge. In fact, they are the only reasonable words in the face of the irrationality of man's bestial behaviour. Believing in the Man who spoke them, in His Presence and presence in history, is the only true hope. That is why the gesture of prayer, fasting and abstinence on Tuesday 17 October, requested by Cardinal Pizzaballa, was great and reasonable. And that is why Pope Francis' constant plea for peace is great and true. It is not a "priests' approach": it is the recognition of real men who have seen and touched their incapacity, their powerlessness, their total impossibility to do good and, therefore, they entrust their hope to the One who can give peace.

Read also - Pizzaballa: "Christ won the world by loving"

It is only out of a desire to learn to love others with depth and gratuitousness, as Jesus taught us, that it is worth coming up with operative actions. It is not just a matter of resolving the conflict and tackling the political problems that generated it: we must seek true peace, which only trusting in Someone greater than ourselves makes possible. There are many actions that men can carry out for true peace, and they must be pursued with all available energy: investing in the education of children and young people, retracing diplomatic options for lasting stability, working towards an immediate 'ceasefire' that spares the endless pain of new victims. How many works have been born and have grown in those martyred territories, which have already been vigorously pursuing these goals for some time (think, for example, of the presence of Christians in the Holy Land for so many decades). May the creativity, intelligence and courage of men put themselves at the service of peace: may men learn to love all their brothers, even their enemies.

*Professor of Economics and Business Organisation at the Polytechnic of Milan