Seventeen days have elapsed since the Israeli Defense Forces began air strikes on Gaza, and seven days have passed since the onset of its simultaneous ground invasion. As of Wednesday evening, 700 Palestinians and 35 Israelis had lost their lives—not to mention an additional 4,600 wounded Palestinians.
The international response has ranged from a wave of anti-semitic demonstrations across Europe to a pro-Israeli press conference on the steps of New York’s City Hall to a slew of Palestinian solidarity protests. UN General Secretary Ban-Ki Moon delivered a clear exhortation to both Israelis and Palestinians: “stop fighting, start talking, and take on the root causes of the conflict so that we are not at the same situation in the next six months or a year.”
Religious officials have also voiced their discontent. Pope Francis phoned Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, reportedly telling them to “bring an end to hostilities” and “make efforts for peace.” On Tuesday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama called the violence “unthinkable,” criticizing religious actors on both sides:
All major religious traditions—Islam, Christianity, Hindu, of course, Jainism and Buddhism, all major religious traditions—teach us the practice of compassion, love, forgiveness, tolerance. So then, for a person who believes in a certain faith, why do you involve [sic] in such violence? It is really very, very sad.
But this is not a call for religious people to remove themselves from the international crisis altogether. The Dalai Lama has previously said that people of faith need to help resolve social and political ills: “When faced with economic or any other kind of injustice, it is totally wrong for a religious person to remain indifferent.” “Religious people,” he said, “must struggle to solve these problems.”
It goes without saying the Israeli-Palestinian violence—over many decades—has proven immune to such resolution. Yet the Dalai Lama beckons Buddhists to enter the struggle anyway. Religious people who refuse to tolerate injustice and mass killing will consider this conflict directly relevant to their faith.
—Max Zahn, Editorial Assistant
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