Saturday marked the third time since Israel began military operations in Gaza on July 8 that I let my voice be heard. I stood and marched alongside some 20,000 other individuals that like me have become utterly disgusted by what is unfolding in the Middle East.
A cease-fire has been struck, but as of yesterday, at least 1,800 Palestinians, most of whom are civilians, have been killed and nearly 7,000 have been wounded. Another 200,000 have been displaced in a territory whose infrastructure is now in ruins with mass power and water outages.
Despite the horrific events that have happened halfway across the world, the protest last Saturday, which took place at the White House, was a beautiful sight. Among the 20,000 protesters were Muslims, Jews, and Christians. There were blacks, whites, Arabs, Asians, and Latinos. There were women and men, both young and old, who had come from cities like Chicago, Tampa, Baltimore, and Boston. Many barriers were broken as we stood and marched in solidarity with the people of Palestine.
There were times when my heart was completely broken as I saw signs with photos of dead and mutilated bodies and others that listed the names and ages of children who had been killed by Israeli airstrikes. But in those same moments I would look across the sea of protesters draped in black, white, green, and red yelling phrases such as "Free, Free Palestine!" and "Stop the killing, stop the hate!" and I would once again become a prisoner of hope. I take refuge in the rock that is Christ Jesus. I know my God stands with those being oppressed, with those seeking justice and peace. I know my voice and prayers along with millions of others around the world will be heard.
Although I am pro-Palestine, that does not make me pro-Hamas or anti-Israel. I recognize and condemn Hamas's involvement in the failed peace talks and inability to find solutions. I also mourn equally for the loss of life on the Israeli side. However, despite the part Hamas has played in all of this I do not find Israel's actions to be justified. So I march.
As a human being I march because we are all one. Regardless of our differences, whether they be ethnically, religiously, or politically, we are all in this together and the loss of life saddens me, especially that of innocent women and children. Too often have we sought to protect the abusers instead of standing up and fighting for the victims.
As a black American I march because my people know what it is like to suffer the brunt of unjust systems. As Kristian Davis Bailey points out: "The experiences of African Americans and Palestinians with systemic mass incarceration are also strikingly similar. Forty percent of Palestinian men have been arrested and detained by Israel at some point in their lives. (To put this in perspective, the 2008 figure for Blacks was 1 in 11.) Israel maintains policies of detaining and interrogating Palestinian children that bear resemblance to the stop and frisk policy and disproportionate raids and arrests many of our youth face."
As a Christian I march because of verses like Isaiah 1:17, which instructs us to, "learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" and Proverbs 31:8-9, which states, "Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."
Our voices must be heard. The narrative of slain Palestinian civilians must be controlled by the loved ones they left behind. They cry out from their refugee camps to their fellow brothers and sisters to speak on their behalf. We have the responsibility of carrying their message around the world and specifically to our leaders. Martin Luther King Jr. said "There comes a time when silence is betrayal." Let your voice ring out for justice, for peace, and for righteousness!
Ryan Herring is Marketing and Circulation Assistant for Sojourners.