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It’s not the thinking that unites us, it’s the doing

Refugee camp in Greece. Photo: Julie Ricard, Unsplash

Hope is not a feeling, it’s an action. This is the motto of friends and peace activists Maoz Inon (Israeli) and Hamze Awawdeh (Palestinian). Maoz’ parents were killed on October 7th. Since then, he has become a vocal peace entrepreneur honouring the legacy of his parents by uniting as many people as possible for a future plan for the people of the land, Palestinian and Israeli. Hamza Awawdeh grew up under occupation and chose many years ago to devote his life and career towards peace advocacy.  

These two have been my inspiration in these last months of darkness, pain and division. They are very clear – peace can not be built one-sidedly and not alone. It’s absolutely essential to unite the people of the land, and in this they ask for the international community to ”invest in peace”, support those calling for reconciliation.

The deep divisions on the European continent are different yet similarly often framed as religious or cultural divides. As if we only can live together with people of the same faith. A strange and even bewildering notion, as we are all taught by Ibraham / Abraham / Avraham that we are strangers in a strange land. These are our roots; wandering across the face of the earth, no place to call our own. Everything that we have, is given. Not as a possession but as a calling. A calling to share, to use for others and do unto others as we hope sometimes people would do unto us.

Hope is not a feeling, it’s an action. A choice. The challenges Europe is facing are gigantic. With our network of migration practitioners, A World of Neighbours, we are gathering people of hope, people of faith, people of doing. A New Podcast ‘Living as Neighbours’ is just being released by us about their stories.

Rouddy, founder of RAD Music. Photo: A World of Neighbours

It’s Rouddy on the Island of Lesvos, who was imprisoned in Turkye for no reason and started singing to prevent himself from madness. At first they thought he had gone mad, then his fellow prison inmates started to listen, then they joined in the singing. When he ended up on Lesbos island in the infamous Moria Camp, people remembered his singing and asked him to sing there too. Now he runs RAD Music, uniting refugees from all kinds of backgrounds, international volunteers and locals. If I walk with him through the streets of the capital, he is stopped at every streetcorner and greeted. The informal ‘major of Lesvos’, friends call him. There’s Sanella in Bosnia, who couldn’t look away when refugees where pushed out of the bus next to her house, day in, day out. She created shelters, organised volunteers and now she is helping refugees who want to stay in Bosnia, connecting them to local entrepreneurs. Amjid fights racism whereever he can by giving courses and making media productions, Rabbi Rebecca and Helena from Islamic Relief worldwide teached our fellow practitioners after the 7th of Octobre how to talk about the situation. Some of us just take weeks off, to spend time on the outer borders of Europe with people who are stuck in forests and squats, making friends, creating little moments of humanity that won’t be forgotten.

They all live for a future that’s not present yet and they need each other, Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheïsts, Yezidi and whatever faith drives them, recognise each other in the same calling, the same action. Some of our practitioners tell us that the network of A World of Neighbours is the only interreligious, incultural network that’s left after the 7th of Octobre and the war that followed. That’s not something to be proud of, we mainly tried to understand why. The main reason, they said, was this: A World of Neighbours wasn’t rooted in dialogue, it was rooted in doing, in diakonia, in care for a shared future and shared humanity. The dialogue was a necessary means to a higher goal and that’s how the dialogue survived. 

Being Director of this movement, I’ve learned one thing: this we cannot do alone, not as  person, not as people of one faith, not as people of one country or language. The only way forward is if we organise against the tide of divisions and dehumanization in intercultural and interreligious ways. 

As a theologian, at the university, the highest form or theology was always the rational, systematic reflection, finding the right words for spiritual matters. The people doing ‘practical theology’ were those who were considered to be not smart enough to do the real theoretical thing. I am embarrassed writing it here because I’ve learned that this is the world upside down. Real wisdom and faith and community grows from the doing. A very specific kind of doing, It’s not the doing of the things that you know. It’s getting into the mess of things that you don’t know the answer to yet, but that need attention, care, love, change. Engaging with the darkness in the world, the pain, the division, the oppression or alienation – putting yourself in those places as a community, a believer, a human being is a way to learn about the light, about hope. I live by the quote of Saint Augustin who said: “Hope has two beautiful daughters, one is called Anger, the other one is called Courage. Anger about how things are and the Courage to believe things will not stay as they are.” In this hope we can join hands, we need to join hands and hearts and it will deepen our faith. 

It’s not our job to know the answer to loneliness, to dehumanization of refugees, to polarization and much more. We just need to physically bring ourselves in the context of those who suffer. Not to solve their suffering, but to sit with it, to learn from it, to be a stranger – sometimes even to your own people.

Hope is not a feeling, it’s an action. We can’t wait for the feeling of hope, says Maoz Inon. He doesn’t how peace will come, but he knows for sure that it will come. He preaches like a modern day Martin Luther King, together with his Palestinian friends. They bring their experience together and are building a movement. The only question he asks is if we want to be part of the alternative to war. 

Let’s build and rebuild alliances, believe in the necessity of taking action – even if we are not sure whether we will be successful or see any results. The future is not in our hands, but we can chose how to use our time today, how to put our words of hope and love into action together. 

Rikko Voorberg. Photo: Eljee Bergwerff

Rikko Voorberg is the director of A World of Neighbours.