Summary: For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual...
I’m reading from the Amnesty International report on the war on Lebanon, August 2006:
"The Israeli Air Force launched more than 7,000 air attacks on about 7,000 targets in Lebanon between 12 July and 14 August, while the Navy conducted an additional 2,500 bombardments.
The attacks, though widespread, particularly concentrated on certain areas. In addition to the human toll – an estimated 1,183 fatalities, about one third of whom have been children, 4,054 people injured and 970,000Lebanese people displaced – the civilian infrastructure was severely damaged. The Lebanese government estimates that 31 “vital points” (such as airports, ports, water and sewage treatment plants, electrical facilities) have been completely or partially destroyed, as have around 80 bridges and 94 roads. More than 25 fuel stations and around 900 commercial enterprises were hit.
The number of residential properties, offices and shops completely destroyed exceeds 30,000. Two government hospitals – in Bint Jbeil and in Meis al-Jebel – were completely destroyed in Israeli attacks and three others were seriously damaged. In a country of fewer than four million inhabitants, more than 25 per cent of them took to the roads as displaced persons. An estimated 500,000 people sought shelter in Beirut alone, many of them in parks and public spaces, without water or washing facilities".
How could such a thing happen? How could an outstanding democracy like Israel commit such barbarities upon its far weaker neighbours?
We always find ourselves asking these questions in retrospect, unable to make sense of how something so terrible could have happened.
A generation ago we were asking similar questions after World War II. How could such a thing have happened? How could the German people have committed such barbarous acts against the people of Israel? After all, this was the country that gave us some of history’s greatest musicians and thinkers. What on earth happened?
And so we blame individuals - eg. Hitler. It was his fault. Or in the modern scenario we blame Ehud Olmert or George W Bush or Johnny Howard perhaps, or Hasan Nasrallah, if you want to include Hezbollah in the equation. Bad men! That’s why bad things happen. Vote in a bad man and evil will result. Get rid of the bad men and evil will stop! If only it were that simple!
It’s not true is it, that a vibrant peace-loving community mistakenly votes in a maniac who overnight transforms an earthly paradise into a living hell? No. The transformation of a healthy life-giving community into a violent harbinger of death is not something that happens overnight.
It’s the same with individuals of course. Nobody becomes a criminal overnight. Our children do not suddenly become addicts. Paedophiles don’t just spring up from nowhere. Changes take place slowly, insidiously, so that we rarely notice what is happening until it is too late. And a precise, simple cause is almost always impossible to locate.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
The words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6, and how right he is.
If only this were not so. If only our enemies could be more easily identified. Target the enemy, assassinate them if you have to, and the problems will end! Of course It doesn’t work.
Coincidentally perhaps, Israel have been doing ‘targeted assassinations’ for some time now, believing presumably that this will help solve their problems.
I was in Israel in April 2004 when the then leader of Hamas, wheelchair-bound, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, was taken out with 3 missiles fired from a helicopter gunship. Those who ordered the killing hoped, no doubt, that this would bring an end to Hamas as a recognisable force. A year later they won the Palestinian elections!
The real force we struggle with is never that tangible, never that easy to expunge from our midst. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Get rid of the bad boyfriend! That will solve my daughter’s problems. It rarely works! That’s not to say that some boyfriends shouldn’t be moved on, but it’s rarely a complete answer to the problem, any more than assassinating your political opponents puts an end to your opposition.
The tangible problems are relatively easy to deal with. Dealing with the intangible - dealing with jealousy, greed, patriotism that has degenerated into uncritical nationalism, community pride that has become twisted into bigotry and prejudice, fear that has become all-controlling both of individuals and of communities - the unseen forces that lead us towards death. These things are far harder to deal with.