Our Secretary-General, William Morris, continues to discuss new political developments in his ongoing podcast, This Week in the Middle East. In this week’s episode, William speaks about the recent killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Her death, and the disruption of her funeral, has understandably generated a lot of hatred. However, as she was a Christian, would she have wanted this response? William is not so sure. Listen to the full episode through Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. William’s comments have generated a number of responses. The following, by Dr. Nagia Abdelmoghny Said in Cairo, is the most extensive of these. Nagia writes:
Thank you very much for all your good willed efforts to relieve suffering and promote global peace. Thanks to our dear friend William for all his efforts. I personally respect his call for mercy “Mercy is the only answer if we are to break the cycle of hatred. It is difficult to do but it is necessary if we are going to heal a broken world.” However, I do believe that repentance, restorative justice and putting right what went wrong are essential for reconciliation and breaking the vicious cycle and chains of hate. kindly see the following document entitled ‘Mercy , Love and Justice’ which I wrote in response to William’s call .With prayers and all best wishes.
Mercy, Love and Justice; By Dr. Nagia Abdelmoghny Said
In the aftermath of the brutal assassination of Palestinian American Aljazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh (May 11th 2022) by occupying Israeli military forces in Jenin, our British friend William Morris, cofounder and Secretary General of the Next Century Foundation (NCF), registered with consultative status at the United Nations (ECOSOC), made a podcast condemning this brutal action and wondering what is the answer to such violent confrontations and aggression like in the ongoing Ukraine War (Russia invading Ukraine). He cautioned against the vicious circle of retribution and advocated love, mercy and compassion. Shireen Abu Akleh assassinated in Jenin May, 2022 Massive Destruction in Ukraine 2022 Massive Destruction in Gaza, 2021 as a result of Russian Raids as a result of Israeli raids.
My answer to our friend William is as follows:
I. Repelling injustice, destruction and aggression is legitimate and warranted: Repelling injustice , upholding the sanctity of human life, protecting peoples’ property and all sacred houses of worship (synagogues, churches, mosques), repelling danger and defending ourselves against aggressors is lawful and required and blessed by almighty God Creator of the Universe, or else, destruction will be our destiny.
“When they met Goliath and his troops, they said, “Lord, give us endurance and make our feet firm and save us from the unbelievers. ” So, with God’s approval, they defeated them. David killed Goliath, and God gave him the kingdom and wisdom, and taught him what He willed. If God had not driven some back by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted, but God is Gracious to all God.” Meaning of verses 250 -252 of chapter 2 of the holy Quran.
“PERMISSION [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged and, verily, God has indeed the power to them make them victorious. Those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying. “Our Sustainer is God!” For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques – in [all of] which God’s name is abundantly extolled – would surely have been destroyed [ere now]. And God will most certainly make victorious him who stand up for Him His cause: for, verily, God is most powerful, almighty” Meaning of verse 39-40, chapter 22 of the holy Quran.
In case of the eruption of violent conflict among two believing factions, intervention for reconciliation and enjoining justice is mandated. Intervention starts and ends by reconciliation. If one fighting faction commits or causes injustice and oppress the other, armed intervention is employed until the oppressing faction come back to their sense. Once they are back to their senses reconciliation and justice are to be sought for God loves those who are fair. Believers are but brothers and we need to reconcile our brothers for God’s mercy to prevail.
“And if two groups of believers fight each other, then make peace between them. But if one of them transgresses against the other, then fight against the transgressing group until they ˹are willing to˺ submit to the rule of God. If they do so, then make peace between both ˹groups˺ in all fairness and act justly. Surely God loves those who uphold justice. All believers are but brethren. Hence, [whenever they are at odds,] make peace between your two brethren, and remain conscious of God, so that you might be graced with His mercy”. Meaning of verses 9 and 10 of chapter (49) of the holy Quran.
II. The Ten commandments prescribe for humanity, by Our Creator, the road to happiness, human security external and internal peace, family and community cohesion. They provide guiding principles that apply universally, across changing circumstances. They are considered a summary of God’s law and standard of behaviour, central to life, piety, and worship. The Ten Commandments were written by God upon two tablets of stone and then given to prophet Moses, peace be upon him on Mount Sinai. The record of the Ten Commandments can be found in the Bible, both in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. 1-You shall have no other gods before Me. 2-You shall not make idols. 3-You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. 4-Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 5-Honor your father and your mother. 6-You shall not murder. 7-You shall not commit adultery. 8-You shall not steal. 9-You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 10-You shall not covet. The receiving of the Ten Commandments by Prophet (Moses) is dealt with in much detail in Islamic tradition with the meeting of prophet Moses with God on Mount Sinai described in Chapter (7) verse 142-145. The Revealing of the Tablets on which were the Commandments of God is described in the following verse: “And We wrote for him (Moses) on the Tablets the lesson to be drawn from all things and the explanation of all things (and said): Hold unto these with firmness, and enjoin your people to take the better therein. I shall show you the home of the rebellious, disobedient to God.” Quranic reference to the ten commandments can be found in chapter 2 verses 83 and 84 “And [recall] when We took the covenant from the Children of Israel, [enjoining upon them], “Do not worship except God (1); and to parents do good (2) and to relatives (3), orphans (4), and the needy (5). And speak to people good words (6) and establish prayer (7) and give Zakat (Charity) (8).” Then you turned away, except a few of you, and you were refusing.” “And [recall] when We took your covenant, [saying], “Do not shed each other’s blood (9) or evict one another from your homes (10).” Then you acknowledged [this] while you were witnessing.” Going against those commandments inflicts suffering on humanity. Causing suffering to God’s creation is definitely sinful. We all try to live and interact with each other according to God’s commandments and His messages over the ages to His creation via His messengers, peace be upon them all. We may not be able to judge others, but definitely God will judge them.
III. God’s Mercy is encompassing: It is said that “God’s sun rises on all his creation, good doers as well as sinners.” In the Islamic culture, among God’s 99 attributes or names is “The Merciful “and “The Compassionate” and that His Mercy encompasses everything. The first verse of the first chapter in the holy Quran entitled “The Opening” means: “In The Name of God Most Gracious (Compassionate) Most Merciful”. In addition, we have been brought up instructed (urged) to start anything with that same verse and often the same chapter.
“In the name of God, the Merciful-to-all, the Mercy Giver: Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds (Universe), The Merciful-to-all, the Mercy Giver, Master of the Day of Judgment. It is You we worship, and it is You we seek for help. Guide us to the straight path, The path of those whom You have blessed, with whom You are not angry and who have not gone astray.” Amen Meaning of the 7 verses of chapter (1) of the holy Quran “The Opening” In answer to another prayer in the holy Quran , God reassures that His mercy encompasses everything and that he will grant it to those who are mindful of Him, give charity and believe in His signs. (This was related in the context of the repentance of Jews who had disobeyed their Lord).
“Grant us good things in this world and in the life to come. We have turned to You in repentance.” [God] answered, “I punish whomever I will, but My mercy encompasses everything. I grant it to those who are mindful of Me, give the purifying alms and who believe in Our messages (revelation/signs)” Meaning of verse 156 chapter (7) of the holy Quran. Other attributes and names of God include “Justice” and “Peace”.
IV. Repentance and putting right what was wrong is honoured by God. “The worshipers of the Merciful-to-all are those who walk upon the earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, reply with “peace”; those who spend the night prostrating themselves and standing before their Lord; and those who say “Our Lord, spare us the punishment of Hell. Its punishment is dreadful; It is an evil abode and resting-place.” They are those who, when they spend, are neither wasteful nor tightfisted, but maintain balanced spending habits, [as well as] those who never invoke another god alongside God nor kill the soul that God has forbidden [to be killed], except in the pursuit of justice, nor commit unlawful sexual intercourse. Whoever does these things will face a penalty; that will be multiplied for him on the Day of Resurrection, and he will remain in humiliation forever, except those who repent, believe and do righteous work, [in that case] God will replace their evil deeds with good ones for God is ever-forgiving and Merciful-to-all. Whoever repents and acts righteously has truly returned to God in repentance. Those who do not testify to falsehood, and, when they pass near ill speech, pass by with dignity; and those who, when reminded of their Lord’s revelations, do not turn a deaf ear or a blind eye; and those who say, “Our Lord, give us joy in our spouses and offspring, and make us a good example for those who are ever mindful of You.” All of them will be awarded the highest paradise for what they patiently endured and they will be received with greetings of peace, and will live there for eternity. What an excellent home and place of rest.” Meaning of verses 63-76, chapter (25) of the holy Quran. Accordingly, those who indulge in sin and crimes against humanity, insist on aggression and committing atrocities and do not repent or put right what they made wrong deserve to be punished by God almighty and society. While those who have committed sinful acts but then repent, believe and do good, God changes their sinful record or replaces it by goodness. God’s mercy is unlimited. Militia leaders who were involved in the Lebanese civil war and who admitted they committed atrocities, when they repented and asked forgiveness from God and from their victims or victims’ families, became agents of peace and reconciliation. e.g. Assad Chaftari and Mohey El Deen Shihab, whom we personally and respect. Michael Henderson published in 2002 a book entitled “Forgiveness Breaking the Chain of Hate” in which he tells the story of remarkable people from many nations and different faiths, who, in the most painful circumstances, have broken the chains of hate. From these examples, the author draws lessons for new ways of working together across cultures and lines of conflict. Assad Chaftari former militia leader during the Lebanese civil war, now a leading fighter for peace
V. “Hate the sin but love the sinner” On July 2nd 2018 Jovie Wilkinson wrote “Is it okay to “hate the sin but love the sinner”? Is “hate the sin, love the sinner” found in the Bible? “The phrase ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’ is not explicitly found in the Bible. The origins of this phrase come from two authors, St. Augustine and Mahatma Gandhi. The earliest use of this phrase comes from St. Augustine in a letter he wrote to a commune of nuns (Letter 211, c. 424). In this letter he encourages them to act with love for the persons and hatred of sins. The modern rendering of the phrase comes from Mahatma Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography. He writes: [the phrase] “hate the sin and not the sinner is a precept which, though easy enough to understand, is rarely practiced, and that is why the poison of hatred spreads in the world.” Gandhi argues that using this phrase is an excuse to judge another person because it cannot be effectively practice. Romans 12:9-10 “Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.”
VI. “It is in forgiving that we are forgiven” St. Francis of Assisi Peace Prayer “Lord, make me an instrument of peace. Where there is hatred, may I bring love; Where there is offense, forgiveness; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is desperation, may I bring hope; Where there is sadness, let me bring joy; Allow me to console, rather than to be consoled; To understand, rather than to be understood; To love, rather than be loved; Because, giving is receiving; Because, it is in forgiving, that we are forgiven; It is in dying, that we are born to eternal life.” Amen The holy Quran encourages and praises forgiveness and being on the give.
“Let not those among you who possess affluence and wealth swear against giving to their relatives, the needy, and the emigrants for God’s sake, but let them pardon and forgive. Would you not like for God to forgive you? God is forgiving and Merciful-to-all.” Meaning of verse 22, chapter (24) of the holy Quran. Even though retribution or punitive justice is instituted by Islam, granting pardon is considered and alleviation and mercy from God, provided there is restitution, restorative justice.
“Believers, just retribution is prescribed in the case of those killed: a free person for a free person, a slave for a slave, a female for a female. But If the aggrieved brother pardons the guilty person, then grant any reasonable demand and pay with kindness. This is a relief and mercy from your Lord. However, if anyone then goes beyond these limits he will have painful punishment. You who have understanding, there is life for you [by practicing] just retribution, so that you may continue to be mindful of God.” Meaning of verses 178-179, chapter (7) of the holy Quran.
VII. “Faith, love and hope but the greatest of all is love” “If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Holy Bible 1Corinthian 13.13 The holy Quran enjoins love and repelling evil with goodness and being fair, even to your enemy, which could eventually turn him into a friend.
“Good and evil are never equal. Repel evil with good, and your enemy will become like an intimate friend.” Meaning of verse 34, chapter 41 of the holy Quran.
O believers! Stand firm for God and bear true testimony. Do not let the hatred “of a people lead you to injustice. Be just! That is closer to righteousness. And God has promised Aware of what you do.-All be mindful of God. Surely God is those who believe and do good ˹His˺ forgiveness and a great reward.”.9, chapter (5) of the holy Quran-Meaning of verses 8
“The worshipers of the Merciful-to-all are those who walk upon the earth with humility, and when the ignorant address them, reply with “peace”. Meaning of verse 63, chapter (25) of the holy Quran
VIII. “Father Forgive”
Good morning William I woke up this morning with the image of Coventry Cathedral in my mind and the sentence or prayer written bellow the cross at the alter made from the nails remaining from the ruins of the Cathedral which was bombarded by the Nazis during World War II. The sentence or prayer said “Father forgive”. We (three Egyptian young students) had visited the Cathedral in the summer of 1972 at the invitation of Oxford Polytechnic arranged by the late William Conner and Dr. Robin Mowett, God bless their souls. The visit marked the beginning of the British Arab Student Exchange, which lasted for 41 years. It had started with Egypt and expanded to include other Arab countries (Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Sudan). Coventry Cathedral ruins and reconstruction, UK The Cross of Nails The Cross of Nails, also created after the Blitz, was made of three nails from the roof truss of the old cathedral by Provost Richard Howard of Coventry Cathedral at the suggestion of a young friend, the Reverend Arthur Philip Wales. It was later transferred to the new cathedral, where it sits in the centre of the altar cross. It has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation across the world. There are over 330 Cross of Nails Centers all over the world, all of them bearing a cross made of three nails from the ruins, similar to the original one. When there were no more of these nails, a continuing supply have come from a prison in Germany. They are coordinated by the International Centre for Reconciliation. One of the crosses made of nails from the old cathedral was donated to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, which was destroyed by Allied bombing and is also kept as a ruin alongside a newer building. A replica of the cross of nails was also donated to the Chapel of Reconciliation (Kapelle der Versöhnung) which forms part of the Berlin Wall Memorial. Those crosses mark the tragedies of ruthless wars and the quest for peace and reconciliation , but they will always remain a reminder and witness of atrocities committed till the day of judgment. In 1994 the cathedral received a copy of the statue Reconciliation, by Josefina de Vasconcellos. Originally created in 1977 and entitled Reunion, it had been presented to the University of Bradford’s Peace Studies department. After repairs and renaming, a bronze cast of the statue was presented to the cathedral in 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Similar copies are held at the Hiroshima Peace Park in Japan, at the Stormont Estate in Northern Ireland, and at the Chapel of Reconciliation in Berlin. The statue of reconciliation The BBC broadcast a documentary in 1962 entitled Act of Faith, narrated by Leo Genn, detailing the history of Coventry Cathedral, its destruction and rebuilding. This brings to my mind the famous sentence “Forgive but don’t forget.” May humanity wake up to a new dawn of peace, justice, compassion and human dignity. Amen
IX. Restorative justice, transitional justice. justice as fairness: Restorative Justice is an important and vital concept that can help put things right. Punitive justice means that the wrong doer is held accountable for his ill deeds and punished if the accusations proved true. Restorative justice seeks restitution and healing thus cutting the vicious circle, ending the suffering and bloodshed and putting things right. It is an innovative approach to criminal rehabilitation which has spiritual and cultural roots. Howard Zehr clarifies that Restorative justice requires, at minimum that we address the harms and needs of those harmed, hold those causing harm accountable to “put right” those harms and involve both of these parties as well as relative communities in this process. Susan Sharpe summarizes the goals and tasks of restorative justice in her book” A vision for healing and change” as follows: Restorative justice programs aim to: – Put key decisions into the hands of those most affected by crime – Make justice more healing and ideally more transformative. – Reduce likelihood of future offences. Transitional justice is an approach to systematic or massive violations of human rights that both provides redress to victims and creates or enhances opportunities for the transformation of the political systems, conflicts, and other conditions that may have been at the root of the abuse, It works to hold those responsible to account, reform and build democratic institutions, and prevent the recurrence of violence or repression. The International Center for Transitional Justice ICTJ, since its inception in 2001, has worked in more than 50 countries around the world (based on the experience of South Africa after the Apartheid repressive regime). Truth and Reconciliation Committees TRC in South Africa represented a major departure from the approach taken at the Nürnberg trials. It was hailed as an innovative model for building peace and justice and for holding accountable those guilty of human rights violations. At the same time, it laid the foundation for building reconciliation among all South Africans. Many other countries dealing with post conflict issues have instituted similar methodologies for such commissions, although not always with the same mandate. The South African TRC has provided the world with another tool in the struggle against impunity and the search for justice and peace. “Justice as Fairness” John Rawls, in an article published in 1985, describes his conception of justice which comprises two main principles of liberty and equality Rawls arranges the principles in ‘lexical priority’, prioritizing in the order of the Liberty Principle, Fair Equality of Opportunity and the Difference Principle. This order determines the priorities of the principles if they conflict in practice. The principles are, however, intended as a single, comprehensive conception of justice—’Justice as Fairness’—and not to function individually. These principles are always applied so as to ensure that the “least advantaged” are benefitted and not hurt or forgotten. In his inauguration speech, Abu Bakr El Sidiq, the closest companion of prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, and first Caliph , declared that “The weak in my sight is strong until I get back his rights and strong in my sight is weak until he restores the rights of others. “ In my view this established the principle that ‘Right is might not might is right ‘.
In order to ensure RESTORATIVE and TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE and provide material for TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMITTEES TRC in the Arab – Israeli conflict, we are reminded of the following painful facts.
However, the bloody record and atrocities committed by Israeli gangs and military forces do not justify retribution against civilians anywhere. We need to differentiate between legitimate resistance to military occupation and isolated desperate violent reactions and terrorist attacks against innocent civilians
P.S. In 2002, Israel refused to let Dr. Cornelio Sommaruga (Swiss humanitarian, lawyer and diplomat and former President of the International Red Cross Committee (IRCC) from 1987 to 1999 ) to enter Israel to investigate the massacre in Jenin. He was sent by the late Kofi Annan, the General Secretary of the UN at the time. Dr. Sommaruga is currently the honorary President of Initiatives of Change International (IofC), a global organization dedicated to “building trust across the world’s divides” of culture, nationality, belief, and background.
More recently, on the 22nd of May 2022, Israel refused to allow the European Parliament envoy, Manu Pineda (Spanish) to enter Israel to investigate the assassination of Shireen Abu Akleh.
Kofi Annan Cornelio Sommaruga Manu Pineda. The European Union had strongly condemns the killing of Palestinian-American journalist of Al-Jazeera, Shireen Abu Akleh, in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday May 11th 2022 and expressed condolences to her family, friends and colleagues. The EU further stated that “It is essential that a thorough, independent investigation clarifies all the circumstances of these incidents as soon as possible and that those responsible are brought to justice. It is unacceptable to target journalists while they perform their job. Journalists covering conflict situations must be ensured safety and protection at all times.” The European Union was also appalled by the scenes unfolding on Friday during the funeral procession Shireen Abu Akleh in occupied East Jerusalem. The EU condemned the disproportionate use of force and the disrespectful behaviour by the Israeli police against the participants of the mourning procession. Roberata Metsola, president of the European Parliament regretted the decision of the Israeli government to refuse entry of Manu Pineda, the chair of the European Parliamentarian delegation for relations with Palestine, to Jerusalem and to deny the entry of the whole delegation to Gaza. This definitely proves Israel’s continued attempts to escape accountability.
A Plea to Humanity
A Poem by Nagia A. Said
(April 10th 2022)
“Oh Human Family, sons and daughters of Adam and Eve,
Satin is your eternal enemy dragging you to tyranny, hatred and felony
Shame the Devil. Don’t let him win over you
When God created man and taught him all the words,
He ordered the angels to kneel down and prostrate to him
They all obeyed except for Satin who arrogantly said:
“Do you want me to prostrate to a creation of mud while I am made of fire?”
For jealousy and arrogance, our eternal enemy, Satin, drove Adam and eve out of Paradise
Man is made of earth. He will return to earth.
Why does he seek destruction when penalty and reward will take place???!!!!
Black and white, brown and yellow, rich or poor all are the descendants of Father Adam and Mother Eve.
Realize your shared humanity
Reject insanity before it is too late
Or destruction will be our fate
Live to make each other great
Let peace be your mate”
The Human Family Stemming from father Adam and mother Eve In short, repelling injustice, upholding the sanctity of human life, protecting peoples’ property and all sacred houses of worship (synagogues, churches, mosques), repelling danger and defending ourselves against aggressors is lawful and required and blessed by almighty God Creator of the Universe, or else, destruction will be our destiny. Reconciliation follows self-defense, repelling of danger and ending aggression. Reconciliation goes hand in hand with transitional justice and restoration of people’s rights of self-determination, liberty and dignity, whether in Ukraine, Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Palestine or anywhere in the world,
Even though 74 years have passed since the Israeli occupation of Palestine in 1948 and 55 years since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as well as the Golan Heights in 1967, we will never forget our legitimate rights. We will never forget our martyrs. We are determined to liberate our lands. We are determined to uphold human values and moral principles. We are determined to convince the whole world to enforce UN resolutions regarding Palestine and the occupied territories.
We salute all sincere citizens of the world who acknowledge Palestinian legitimate rights and denounce Israeli occupation, aggression and expansionist policies and actions.
Sustainable durable peace can only be achieved through justice, respect of human dignity and ensuring human rights to all without discrimination.
May we all put our heads together, hands together and hearts together to end human suffering and bring peace and sanity to a troubled world. Amen