The 1986 baccalaureate address to the graduates
of the Friends Girls School in Ramallah
by Jean Zaru
May God’s Peace, Mercy and Blessing be unto you.
I am overjoyed for this privilege of sharing and fellowship with you all at this baccalaureate service, for this school, its students, teachers, and principals, past and present, have had a great impact on my life.
I apologize for speaking in English, but I do feel it ís very important for our partners in this service whose mother tongue is not Arabic to understand. Notice I say partners and not guests or donors or bosses or Americans, for all of us are partners, members of one another. And for over a hundred years we have been trying to express this partnership in sharing, in solidarity, and in joint action to promote a world community based on peace and justice.
As I thought about a farewell message to leave with you the subject of peace kept coming to me again and again – why?
When I greet you in Arabic I start with “Peace” – when I say goodbye, it is “Go in God’s peace.” So, the word peace is central in our language As a people and as persons we yearn for peace. Peace, compassion, faithfulness, and self-control are qualities strengthened in this holy month of Ramadan. “Peace to our world” and “Working together for peace” have been mottos of many organizations this year that has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Peace. With the birth of Jesus in our land, the angels sang, “Peace on earth, good will to all.
But what is Peace?
Peace is a state of respect, cooperation, and well-being.
Peace is the presence of social justice.
Peace is the absence of war, poverty, hunger, and oppression.
Peace is having enough to eat.
Peace is freedom from sickness and diseases. It is employment and health.
Peace is hope for your future and the future of all God’s children and God’s world.
Peace is when we have no fear to assemble, to worship, to work, to publish and to say the truth, even to power
Peace is Salaam, well-being for all, equality, and respect for human rights.
Peace is Salaam based on justice and equality where everybody feels at home and accepted with no barriers of age, class, sex, race, religion, or nationality.
Peace is a sense of unity and relationship with God and all of God’s people, which compels one to work for justice and equality.
Peace is action that is dynamic and positive.
Peace is that fragile harmony that carries with it the experience of the struggle, the endurance of the suffering, and the strength of love.
Yet, in spite of that, peace has been misunderstood by many to mean submission to the evils in our world. Peace is not submission, nor is it silent acceptance of what goes on around us, Peace is not the peace of the governments, their plans and initiative that we have be hearing about for so long.
Jean Zaru, a Palestinian Quaker has distinguished herself as teacher, wife and mother, Friend, and spokesperson for a community under occupation She served as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches from 1975 to1988. She is in demand as a conference speaker; she carries a concern for the Friends Meeting of Ramallah, of which she is a member; her life has been devoted to the Friends Schools of Ramallah, for which she developed the special ethics curriculum.
Reprinted from the December 1986 issue of QUAKER LIFE
Peace is the creation of God’s Kingdom on this earth and abiding by God’s will.
You may ask – but what can we do as young Palestinian women to promote peace when we are all victims of violence, when we are dealing with so many structures of injustice – social, cultural, economic, and political? As women we are not equal to our brothers, and as Palestinians we are not equal to the other nations of the world. We are denied our human rights to our land and to self-determination.
What can we do to promote peace when people call us terrorists? We are always condemned for being violent. People ask, “Where are Palestinian peace movements?” As powerless and voiceless victims, we are always under judgment. What can we do?
You still can do a lot, for these structures were not built by God. Christianity and Islam teach us the concept of the Divine nature existing in harmonious relationship with human nature and the natural order. The teachings of our religions helped undergird the belief that human beings have rights. Created in the image of God, our value comes from this likeness. God’s nature is loving, free and just God’s purpose is to free human life from inhuman conditions which exist because humans of free will have chosen behavior that disrupts the intended harmony which provides peace, justice, and freedom for al1.
Male and female, we were all created in the image of God. What a privilege! What a source of strength! Yet what a great responsibility! You can do a lot as a loving, responsible student, teacher, parent, worker, and consumer. You can make a difference by sharing with the rest of the world who you are and what you are. Don’t get discouraged when you learn about the distorted images people have of us, for there is nothing worse than feeling powerless or hopeless. It is important that we become more optimistic more confident and more competent to make decisions about how we want our lives to be. While we do not know what the future holds, we know who holds the future.
It is not easy for us to learn to think about the sacredness of life, human dignity, and worth when our worth, our dignity, and our determination to work for peace have been rarely recognized. But maybe through the hurt, the pain, the wounds, we will realize our power and become agents of change for the better, rather than agents who transfer power from one group to another
It might be a dream, but it is our human right to dream and to work towards the reality of this dream. This dream will not become a reality if we allow ourselves to be walked over! We should affirm each other and affirm what is good and beautiful in our culture, in our values, food, embroidery and family relations. Use affirmations instead of putdowns, although there is so much that we reject. Affirmation is essential for health and wholeness, for it gives us more self-esteem and makes it easier for us to see the good in others, including those with whom we differ or are in conflict
Enable each other by sharing feelings which allow us to work through past hurtful experiences. Sharing experiences, emotions, and information breaks down the sense of isolation and loneliness, we often experience. Sharing promotes peaceful relationships. Share who you are as a child of God, with the assurance that wherever you are, whether in free circumstances or not, whether you have personal liberty or not, you are constantly under the guiding hand of God. And God has a service for you to render wherever God has placed you.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord lift his countenance upon you and give you peace – and give you peace.
Printed 1988 by
WIDER QUAKER FELLOWSHIP
a program of Friends World Committee for Consultation
Section of the Americas
1506 Race Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 USA