Building Walls or Bridges?
ROME – As usual on Sundays, the Pope was seen from the window of his residence at the Vatican on 9 November 2014, in order to greet faithful and pilgrims coming in large numbers to recite together the Angelus and to listen to the short meditation. This Sunday coincided with the 25th anniversary of the bringing down the Wall of Berlin, hence how not to think of the Wall built by Israel separating the Palestinian Territories?
No doubt the Pope’s speech was not directly meant to the people of the Holy Land. It refers indeed to the conflict which cruelly tears apart this Land of Heavenly Messages. The Pope, as Head of the Universal Church, is aware of the fact that lots of walls are seen round the world. And whoever understood Pope Francis knows that his words are first and foremost spiritual, nonpolitical, and as such they could be adapted to different realities and patterns of life.
His words were simple, but very realistic: “Let us pray so that, with the help of the Lord and cooperation of all men of good will, a culture of proximity will expand wider, likely to bring down all walls which separate the world, so that no more innocent people would be persecuted because of their faith or religion. Wherever there is a wall, hearts are closed. We need bridges not walls!”
We may distinguish in fact between two types of walls which separate mankind “ideologically”: material walls and psychological walls. Material Walls are not widely scattered nowadays. They are rarely seen. There is however one still under construction, in the Holy Land. It is the notorious wall which Israel keeps on building round the Palestinian people “for her security”. Many find therein a short-term “solution” short term but it remains very ugly. This wall is like the visible reflection of other walls, the invisible walls, psychoplegical, which are yet thicker and more serious.
Psychological walls are more spread than material walls. They are as many as the people who live on this land. Each one of us has his inner walls, walls which we build ourselves, or which we have inherited through our culture or milieu. They have become so high with some people, unable to realize that there are other lives behind. Whoever is able to see what is going on behind his “security walls” experiences at the end of the day new horizons and genuine feelings of peace and security. The highest, toughest psychological wall is the one of “fear”, behind which looking for peace and security would be in vain.
The Pope talks about “closed hearts”. This image is indeed appalling! Man who has a closed heart cannot any longer exchange love with others. He is unable to feel the suffering of others. They are his “enemies”! That’s perhaps why Christ has invited his disciples to love their enemies! That involves a path towards freedom.
On the other hand, man who build walls between him and others drives back his ardent wish to be loved, and is therefore deprived of the sympathy of others when he is himself in a suffering situation. What loneliness and what sadness! It is hellish.
Loving what we call our enemies is however possible through the “effort” we exert, imploring with Faith help of Heaven in order to build bridges jointly with them. It is a hard and painful labour, but at the same time a relieving one for oneself and for the others. It is the way that leads to the Kingdom of the Promise.
These are the bridges, which the Holy Land and the two other peoples, Christian and Israelis, badly need these days more than ever before. It seems that this “culture of walls” has become a world, international phenomenon at least on the political and religious levels, despite the development of tools of communication which Man is proud of. What a paradox!
This reality pushes us, Christians or not, to perform every day a responsible choice: am I a builder of walls or of bridges?