By Steve Pavey
Said guided our delegation from place to place for my first ten days in Palestine & Israel. He said our group was very different than the other groups he normally guides. Our group was here to bear witness against Israel's unjust militarized occupation & Israel's use of policing and prisons to unjustly oppress Palestinians. Said tells us, most groups I guide come here for religious tourism. These tourists tell him that they are seeking to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. They don't want to talk politics (as if Jesus was apolitical). They don't want to know about the stories of the people who live here. These pilgrims are selfish, he says. They are seeking their own salvation experience and know little of what it means to be human.
I cannot help but think that Said's prophetic critique of these religious tourists, is a critique of the bulk of Christianity practiced in the U.S. It is selfish. It spends its resources and time seeking some otherworldly and selfish salvation experience. It is so preoccupied with its own salvation stories, it has lost touch with the savior who became human and with compassion listened and responded to the stories of those around him, especially the stories of those most marginalized by the political, economic and religious elite.
Clarence Jordan once said, "Jesus has been so zealously worshipped, his deity so vehemently affirmed, his halo so brightly illumined, and his cross so beautifully polished that in the minds of many he no longer exists as a man. By thus glorifying him we more effectively rid ourselves of him than did those who tried to do so by crudely crucifying him."
And so the religious tourists come and go from this "holy" land and are unable to see where Jesus (Issa) would walk today, alongside Palestinians, loving and being loved by those desecrated by the state of Israel - with the support of the U.S. government.
Coming Soon: On my return to the U.S., I will share the stories I've heard and the things that I've seen - of the great violence (catastrophe) inflicted on Palestinians and of the great persistence (sumud) to exist, to struggle with dignity, and to continue to hope for liberation.
Steve is a documentary photographer, applied anthropologist and contemplative activist, all of which come together in the vocation of cultivating a way to see, in order to bear witness to the world both as it is, and as it could be. His creative process is deeply shaped by accompanying and being accompanied by humanity living on the margins of empire, documenting and creating images with those shrouded in “otherness” towards the goal of collective action and mutual liberation. Steve’s photography focuses on hope – hope found in the struggle and dignity of becoming more human. You can see more of Steve's work at www.stevepavey.com and to get in contact with Steve email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Steve works with Hope In Focus, which bears witness to the world as it is and as it could be through activist photography committed to walking alongside the world’s oppressed and marginalized, finding hope together in the collective struggle for human dignity and justice.