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Do Not Hate

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Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a lecture at the University of Lethbridge by Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Palestinian doctor who made headlines around the world in 2009 for refusing to respond with hatred and anger after losing three daughters and a niece to an Israeli bomb during the Gaza War.  The title of his book—I Shall Not Hate—speaks to an astonishingly determined, courageous, and compassionate response to a truly unspeakable horror, as does the Daughters for Life foundation for the education of girls from the Middle East that he has set up in memory of his daughters.  A remarkable story, and a remarkable man.

There was nothing very complicated about Abuelaish’s message last night.  Hatred is like cancer, like poison, like an infection, like a chronic disease.  When we hate, we damage ourselves, locking ourselves into a prison of misery, rage, and despair.  We allow ourselves to be doubly victimized—first by whatever events or experiences lit the match for the spark of hate, and second by a life whose parameters are determined by this hatred.  When we hate, we damage ourselves and we close off possibilities for a hopeful future.

In addition, Abuelaish provided a simple reminder of the truth that hatred is a human problem, not a racial problem, a gender problem, a religious problem, an economic problem, or whatever other labels we affix to explain/justify our positions.  To hate, is to fail to see the humanity in our fellow human beings—it is to fail to see that behind whatever labels we adopt to protect ourselves or legitimate our views, is a human being with largely the same hopes, fears, insecurities, etc as us.  It’s easy to hate “terrorists” or “Zionists” or “liberals” or “conservatives” or “Republicans” or “Democrats” or “gays” or “homophobes” or “atheists” or “Christians” or “____.”   It’s not as easy to hate an actual living, breathing human being who occupies any one of these categories.  At least it shouldn’t be.

Today is International Day of Peace around the world.  Perhaps today is as good a day as any to reflect and act upon these two simple themes: 1) To refuse to hate is to refuse to destroy ourselves and to refuse to give any more ground to a disease that is doing untold damage in and to our world; and, 2) To refuse to hate is to determine to see that human beings matter more than political “positions” ethnic/religious boundaries and hot-button ethical issues.  Whatever else will go into making a future of peace for all, surely individual human beings increasingly being guided by these two convictions would represent a good start.

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