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Archbishop Joseph Raya

We are not made for hatred. …

“Don’t try to preach peace and love to individuals until you have proclaimed this doctrine to the crowds.”

Martin Luther King’s words, spoken to me so long ago, have become the basis for my dealings with everyone I have met since my arrival in Israel over a year ago.

In the towns and villages, and in the cities of our beautiful country, I have preached peace and love to countless numbers of people.

Peace and love are the principles of my life. Where there is peace, love is present. Where there is love, peace ensues.

People ask me for my solution to the Middle East problem. I have no solution. But I do know that peace and love are lacking, and that bitterness, resentment, and hatred have taken their place.

The entire world is longing for peace. As the religious leader of my people, I have been urged to constant prayer for our country. My prayer is a prayer for peace, an unconditional peace that stems from within, from a mutual respect and co-operation, brother with brother, Arab with Jew.

We can deceive ourselves into thinking that peace will come while the seeds of bitterness, resentment, and opposition remain in the hearts of the people of this land.

Peace is a state of harmony, not a juxtaposition of silent people with opposing ideologies. Putting down one’s weapons while retaining one’s bitterness is not peace. Nor will it suffice as a solution to the countless problems facing us now. Peace in our country must be the result of our mutual love and respect, understanding, and co-operation.

As I see it, each one of us, while being loyal to his beliefs and to his government, must work to bring about the peace which is so needed in our country. Each person must accept his responsibility to be present to his neighbor. Each person must be prepared to change, to be modified, both in mind and in spirit, by his contacts with others.

If a person is truly present to the person who is beside him, he will begin to be aware of and to respect his human dignity and spiritual values.

By nature, we are made for love, both giving and receiving. We are not made for hatred. It is a choice to nurture hatred and to keep this seed alive in one’s heart. We cannot continue sowing these same seeds of hatred and dissension in the hearts of our people?

Our role is one of love and understanding. Where there is fear, there is no love. And there is always fear of the unknown. So we must initiate steps towards a just and fraternal dialogue, a working together for the common good of all.

No one can possess total truth. If someone thinks that he possesses all of the truth, he is in error. We are continually on the march towards the truth, and each one of us has a part to play in finding it. If all of us were to accede to our longing for truth, we would strive continuously at each encounter to share our truth with one another. This is a dialogue. This is what I seek.

Archbishop Raya, a deceased member of Madonna House, was the Melkite rite archbishop of Haifa, Israel, when he wrote this. There in the Holy Land, he unceasingly worked for peace through non-violent means.

Restoration May-June 2024