I have been reading harrowing accounts of Christian families forced to flee their homes in Iraq due to the incursion of IS, an offshoot of al-Qaeda. Their alternative is forced conversion to Islam or execution. What makes the reports so distressing is that they are stories of ordinary families forced to abandon the houses they own, the businesses they run, and only allowed to carry out the clothes they are actually wearing. All jewellery, passports and medication is taken from them. Their only option is to head for Kurdish-controlled cities where they are afforded a temporary home; they go from citizens to refugees overnight.
In our war-torn world, our increasing readiness to blame others for our problems and the reinforcement of false stereotypes only creates an ever-growing number of divisions throughout humanity. These divisions are poisonous chasms that are most naturally filled up with hatred and misunderstanding.
Jesus, as he journeyed through Samaria, paused at a well, and when a Samaritan woman came to draw water he greeted her with a simple request, ‘Can you give me a drink?’
In one moment Jesus breached two social conventions; he initiated conversation with a woman and engaged in dialogue with a Samaritan. His purpose was to engage with someone who custom and practice identified as ‘an enemy’. This woman was different in that she wasn’t a Jew and, as we later discover, has an irregular lifestyle, outside the local norms of social acceptance.
In engaging in conversation, Jesus neither endorsed the woman’s views or choices, nor did he reject prevailing social practice. He simply illustrated that it is only as we engage in conversation with another that we can build any shared space together. And without shared space there can be no meaningful connection. We remain imprisoned within our prejudice, and equally subject to those prejudices held by ‘the other’.
Jesus invites us to look beyond our prejudice and engage in conversation as the first step in demolishing the walls of hostility that so quickly divide us.
(Dr Micha Jazz)
With many peaceful blessings