by Bishop Munib Younan
As I was driving to Ramallah the other day and stopped at an intersection, a child came up to the car with a towel to try to clean my windshield. I said, “what is this?” He said, “Please, for God’s sake, one shekel. I want to eat!” Other children later started following us when we were walking, “Please, a shekel, a shekel.” I was offended and humiliated to watch Palestinian children turn into beggars. And then, I realized it was daytime, and these children should be in school, but they were just a few of the more than 725,000 public school students who have been out of school for two months now because there are no salaries to pay the teachers. As a Palestinian Bishop, this saddens and angers me.
These children have become the pawns of the politics between the Palestinians and the whole Western world and between the infighting of Hamas and Fatah. It is time that we all – Palestinians, Israelis and the international community – stopped making the children the victims of this political statemate.
We all know the best path for developing a modern, democratic society is education. We all know that education for children is a basic human right, as in the UN declaration for human rights. Children should be in school, opening their minds to the world’s best practices and learning to build their community. Now, as a result of the international boycott against the political leaders, our children are becoming beggars and our teen-agers are becoming more embittered by injustice and hypocrisy and driven into the arms of the extremists. This worries every one of us and should worry the international community.
I call on the international community to help us get our children back in school. If we work together, we can make this happen by the end of next week’s Muslim holiday feast of Eid al Fitr.
I call on Hamas and Fatah to stop the infighting and move forward to solutions that promote peace with justice. We cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into a civil war where everyone is the loser. The future of our children is at stake. We must act now.
In the meantime, we in the Lutheran schools continue to be open and to serve as many students as we can, regardless of religion, gender, political or denominational affiliation. It is their natural human right.