It had been my intention to write a brief note before leaving for the holidays everyone a week of grace and peace, whatever their traditions and beliefs may be, but a story caught my eye today that made me realize that the grace and peace thing is wishful thinking and that most especially for women and children, violence on earth knows no holiday.
With a headline that reads, “What would happen if the Virgin Mary came to Bethlehem today?”, the UK’s Independent has a piece today that documents the horrific conditions under which pregnant women labor in the Palestinian West Bank. Since 2002, 36 babies have died because their mothers were detained at Israeli checkpoints. Proper nutrition and prenatal care are impossible, particularly since funding was cut off to the Palestinian Authority. There are no prenatal vitamins. No ultrasound. 30% of pregnant Palestinian women have anemia. As Johann Hari writes, these women
“have been giving birth in startlingly similar conditions to those suffered by Mary 2,000 years ago. They have delivered their babies with no doctors, no sterilised equipment, no back-up if there are complications. They have been boycotted back into the Stone Age.”
While firmly believing in Israel’s right to exist, the notion that stronger nations have the right to brand the governments of weaker nations as terrorists while committing acts that can only be described as terroristic themselves, and in doing so deprive millions of the their human rights and basic needs is barbaric and only serves to increase the danger; in no way does it make anyone safer. And always, as this article so heartbreakingly confirms, it is, as it has always been, the mothers and babes who suffer first.
As much of the world stops to celebrate an ancient birth, we must renew our committment to the sanctity of the rights of mothers and children everywhere. Then we will truly have a season of peace.