A good end cannot sanctify evil means; nor must we ever do evil, that good may come of it... We are too ready to retaliate, rather than forgive... And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. Let us try then what love will do: for if men did once see we love them, we should soon find they would not harm us. Force may subdue, but Love gains: and he that forgives first, wins the laurel.
William Penn

Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone...
George Fox

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Arrival in Antakya

In Hatay,or Antakya (ancient Antioch) Shu and I are at the home of our hosts, Ozgur and Muhammad, who are working for a humanitarian organisation that gives assistance to Syrian refugees. It is twenty past one in the morning, and they are still doing the paperwork that is required of them after a day in the field. Muhammad crumples a piece of paper and throws it in an arc towards a little basketball hoop on the wall. The paper ball hits the rim of the hoop and falls to the floor where other paper balls are scattered. Though the two  of them work in the field distributing things like coal, blankets, diapers and food coupons during the day, and though they work sixdays a week doing paperwork until late at night, (Sundays being reserved for paperwork only) they keep their spirits up with the knowledge that what they are doing is essential. They also have a good sense of humor. When a nagging colleague who only speaks Turkish phones them repeatedly during their `off` hours, they have me answer the phone in English, then later they have Shu answer the phone speaking Japanese. Finally, the phone calls stop.
The organization that Ozgur and Muhammad work for isn't allowed to work inside the refugee camps, as this work is reserved for government employees inTurkey. But there are many unregistered refugees outside the camps, and NGO`s, which are not really legal here, are tolerated by the goverment to deal with these unregistered refugees.

Shu and I spent the first part of our last night in Gaziantep at the bus terminal, as we were unable to find a host. While there, a spontaneous Kurdish celebration broke out in the parking lot, with traditional music and dancing. A Western man with a backpack and long hair joined the dance to the amusement of bystanders. I spoke to him afterwards and discovered that he was a Slovenian who was on a journey for peace. He had tried to get into Israel and was denied entry. When we met him he was on his way to Iraq, and he was going without a visa. Somehow I believe his journey will succeed, even if he doesn`t get to where he wants to go.
At 2am we presented a bus driver with a paper written by Baris, from the guest house in Antep, which explained what we are doing. The bus driver took us onboard and we rode to Hatay free of charge.

Arriving at 5am in Hatay, the first man I saw was in Saudi Arabian garb. Hatay itself has a Middle Eastern atmosphere, and I felt that I had almost arrived at my destination after 16 months on the road. I overcame the emotion I felt and Shu and I made our way to Hatay`s center. At noon we collapsed outside a mosque on benches and slept until the muezzin woke us up a few hours later.

In Hatay I spoke about non-violent resistance with Ozgur, who is from Istanbul, and Mohammad, from Aleppo in Syria. Both of them are personally committed to peacemaking, but Muhammed is skeptical about non-violent resistance. The resistance in Syria began as a non-violent movement, he reminds me, but after 8 months of heavy losses in a one sided battle, the Syrian people took up arms. Though he agrees that violence begets violence, how could he ask his people to resist without arms?
The situation in Palestine is not the same, but I remain silent. Though Muhammad says nothing about what he has witnessed and suffered in Syria, I know that he left Aleppo only five months ago, and that his brothers are still there. I find it impossible to preach to him.

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