Peter ministered in Meeting: as we think of April Jones and her family- the five year old girl from Machynlleth, we should spare some compassion for Mark Bridger, now charged with her murder. He too had family, friends, a life. And I thought, No. If I knew him, I might have some feeling for him, though perhaps I would owe it more to her; but as it is, I have not enough compassion for the people I know, hardly enough for myself. And- yes, he is entitled to a fair trial, and even mitigation of his suffering if that be possible, but I can have no part in that, and so wishing for it seems cheap.
After, Ann, an Ecumenical Accompanier for three months in 2011, gave a talk. I had not realised how the West Bank is so overrun by Israeli soldiers, for the last ten years, so the Palestinians are divided from their neighbours. The gaps between the brown areas are where the settlements are, restricting the movement of the Palestinians. She showed a picture of a town surrounded by beautiful flower beds, and one of polytunnels, watered and growing peppers and aubergines for the British supermarkets among others, for all the water is controlled by Israelis. She spoke of a village where the Settlers had told the villagers to get out, in 2003, and so now accompaniers record the sufferings of the villagers. Settlers come into the village with impunity and with guns, and urinate in the village well. She told of the army bulldozing homes, and even attacking the entrances to caves with bulldozers so that the cave become less habitable. Even where settlement activity is illegal under Israeli law, it proceeds. The US votes against Security Council condemnation, and the UK abstains, which blocks resolutions.
The villagers had just two days to harvest their olive trees, but because they had not been able to tend the trees the crop could fit in the mayor’s pocket. If this treatment has not yet driven out the Palestinians, they may only be extirpated by killing them. As the Third Reich discovered, simply shooting unarmed civilians upsets soldiers, and reduces their combat effectiveness. The gas chambers were easier on the operators. Ann talked of soldiers weeping because they could not bear what they were ordered to do, and of a Settler child screaming hatred of her because she was preventing them taking the land given by God to the Jews.
Then we had lunch, a convivial affair. The daughter of one of us, I had not known her, is going out as an Accompanier. I chatted to two dark-skinned chaps, a rare though not unheard of sight in a meeting house. One is a Muslim, who grew up in Coventry in the 1960s, and bewails the corruption of Pakistanis in Pakistan- the drone strikes could not happen without government complicity- and in England. He is a believing Muslim, and hates the mosques: the Imams are trained and mosques built with Saudi money. The Imam thinks he is there to tell the people what to think and what to do. They think alike, the Saudis, the Israelis and the American Evangelicals. We agree how beautiful Coventry Cathedral is- going North, to black despair, and meeting God there. Constantine took the Church and made it his own power tool. What can be done? He does not know, though there is hope in Microfinance.
I came home to watch Robert Hughes on The Shock of the New explain how similar was the architecture of Stalin’s Russia- this was before the Wall fell- Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and-
corporate America. One example he picked on was the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts.
As I cycled home, a girl walking by exclaimed, “Love the helmet”. So do I. It is pink, with flowers on. My arms are bare in the almost-warm-enough sunshine. Another cyclist passed me, and commented, “The drivers are less manic on a Sunday”. Almost all are courteous, waiting for a clearly safe place to overtake me.