July 15, 2022

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

Solution to conflicts is to place them in God’s hands

Kimberly PohoveySeveral times while I was on my recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land, I found myself contemplating the dichotomy of sacredness with hostility, peace with conflict. If the Holy Land were a photo, it would display a perfect juxtaposition.

Juxtaposition means the act or an instance of placing two or more things side by side often to compare or contrast or to create an interesting effect.

I first learned about juxtaposition during a photography class in college. Our assignment was to capture juxtaposition within a photo frame. I had trouble finding content to shoot until I spied a sad-looking little boy sitting on a park bench. He appeared in the foreground, while I also captured in the background beyond him two men exchanging money. The subjects weren’t even remotely related to one another, but the distance and angle my camera captured led you to believe a totally different story.

Gazing out tour bus windows on our Holy Land travels, I saw great beauty, especially in the Sea of Galilee region which was lush with gorgeous flora, crystal blue water and a tropical feel. Conversely, I also saw the dry, dusty and impoverished area of the West Bank littered with garbage and abandoned appliances because this occupied Palestinian territory is not eligible for the same sanitation resources as Israel. I’m not making a political statement here, but I found it a paradox that Israel was created to provide a home for oppressed Jews; however, they in turn have oppressed Palestinians. Seemed like an interesting juxtaposition to me.

In Jerusalem, we visited the Wailing Wall, the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, it is the remaining western support wall of the Temple Mount. Thousands come there to pray each year. However, when you approach the area, you must go through metal detectors only to be greeted by dozens of Israeli soldiers carrying what looked to be AK-40s. The competing claims to the site lie at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I could not help but take note that at this “place of weeping” there is a palpable threat of violence amidst the holiness of the site.

One evening on our journey, we were blessed to have adoration at the All the Nations Church located at the Garden of Gethsemane. This hallowed Christian ground is believed to be the site of Christ’s agony while hoping his Father would let the cup pass him by.

As we were lost in prayer, song and meditation, we increasingly heard the sounds of honking horns, sirens and police dogs. At the completion of the holy hour, we were whisked to our bus and led the long way around the city to return to our hotel, carefully avoiding the protests and violence that erupted in Jerusalem. Apparently, while we were in prayer, a funeral was being held for a Palestinian journalist who allegedly died at the hands of Israeli police. Protests ignited throughout the city while fireworks lit the night sky.

Attempting to focus in prayer while listening to the sounds of hostility outside, I experienced the most powerful juxtaposition of hostility among the sacred.

It makes me think of our local communities, nation and world where we daily experience a juxtaposition of peace and protest, good and evil, divine and human—we are in a constant state of conflict as we coexist in this crazy, chaotic world. And I have come to the conclusion that there is no way to resolve these conflicts save to put the entire world in God’s hands.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of major and planned gifts for the archdiocese.) †

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