May we create a space for sanity and peace

The way forward in the Middle East can only begin with a ceasefire

BRATTLEBORO — On the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 2, in Westminster West, I participated in a service committing to the ground the body utilized by the beautiful and loving soul of Eshagh Shaoul.

Our brother Eshagh was a faithful, observant, Iranian Jew. If you ever fellowshipped with him and his wife, Rosalyn, at their home in Putney, you would have transcended who you are as they escorted you though the "Temple of Love," a sacred ground adjacent to their home whereupon all the world's major faith traditions are observed and revered.

Dr. Jim Levinson led the service, as would a rabbi. He recited from the Torah. Dr. Amer Latif also participated in the service, as would an imam. He recited from the Holy Quran. I also recited from the Bible, as would a Christian cleric.

Jew, Muslim, and Christian laid to rest a brother whom we all wish to emulate.

* * *

That morning, while celebrating love, peace, and wisdom, I could not help but think of the Holy Land.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, a glimpse of the destruction which some wish on the nation of Israel catalyzed a new battle, reigniting a war that has been smoldering for some time.

Like most wars, especially World War II, civilians bear the brunt of casualties. Hamas targeted civilians and brutally slaughtered them or seized them as hostages to be used as bargaining chips.

The reaction by Israel is all too predictable, for after the Holocaust, since 1948, she has been fighting for her very survival. Now the ground offensive combines with the aerial bombardment, and the most casualties are innocent Palestinian civilians whom Hamas intentionally hides under and behind.

* * *

While understanding the full context of the war, I urge our members of Congress - Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Becca Balint, and Sen. Peter Welch - to advocate for a ceasefire and to propose a Gaza War Powers Act Resolution.

Let us preserve Palestinian civilian lives in the short term. To level Gaza with Palestinians buried in the rubble will only create hatred and animosity for the next hundred years.

To continue what is happening now is only mutually assured destruction. To some extent, it matters not who is right and who is wrong as all will end up dead in the medium to long term.

* * *

In Vermont, we have a shocking degree of per capita power; we have an influence on national policy disproportionate to our population through our three representatives (who listen to us!) to influence events in the world.

Here is what you can do:

• Today, call and write your Vermont representatives to argue forcefully for a pause in the violence, a ceasefire.

• Today, call and write your Vermont representatives to encourage them to propose a Gaza War Powers Act Resolution that prohibits the executive branch from unilaterally waging war directly or through its Israeli proxy without legislative branch approval and oversight.

The way forward can only begin with the above. Jew, Muslim, and Christian need not foster mutual insanity. We have the same capacity for love, understanding, and peace as we do for murder, hatred, and revenge.

I have seen goodwill in Brattleboro, where Christian, Jew, and Muslim today worship in the same building at the Centre Congregational Church, UCC (as do Zen Buddhists and others).

I have seen it in the life, example, and legacy of Eshagh.

Let us do what we can to create a crack, a crevice, an aperture, a space for sanity and peace to prevail.

Scott Everett Couper, PH.D. is the minister and teacher at Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro.

This Voices Viewpoint was submitted to The Commons.

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