Magnificat: Reflections on Sumud

A response to the story of a strong, defiant Mary Luke 1:39-55

Reflections on Sumud

I went to a talk this week; an annual lecture remembering Tom Hurndall, an MMU photography student shot and killed by an Israeli soldier in 2003, when trying to rescue a child. The lecturer was Lara Sheehi, a Lebanese psychoanalyst. She has met with and tells the stories of Palestinian psychoanalysts in the West Bank. Many of their clients’ symptoms are rooted in the experience of occupation. But they don’t only find stories of loss and humiliation and brutality.  They find stories of life, and desire, of moments of celebration and recollection. Because they want to keep Palestine alive. They speak about steadfastness, using the Arabic word Sumud. I have been looking into that word and what it means in Palestine. To help us below are some words by three Palestinian women, in a document produced for the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum of the World Council of Churches:

Fayza, from Doha, south of Bethlehem:

I am steadfast
I am a town councillor. I work hard inside my house: cooking, doing my daily tasks at home, taking care of my husband and children while at the same time working to earn a living. I also try to volunteer and participate in public activities. My friends and family strengthen my sumud (steadfastness) and encourage me, as a woman, to work in the fields of peace-building, Christian-Muslim living together, and interreligious and intercultural communication skills.

Reaching out – Rima, from Bethlehem:

The Wall is like a sign to say: “Go away from here.” It is intimidating. If you go from the checkpoint toward Gilo you can see all the land that was taken for its construction, and the land what we can no longer access. Some of the land had belonged to my grandparents. Despite everything, we must continue to resist. To continue with our daily life is a form of resistance. One example of resistance is coming every day to the Sumud Story House. The Israelis want to stop our lives by pushing us out. We can resist with any sign of life, and any activity helps, because activities make people want to stay here. You can organize a concert or another cultural activity. These are ways that we can reach the world and the world can reach us.

The baby and the soldiers

A story from Nablus: Israeli soldiers were beating up a man in a crowded street. From all sides people rushed to the scene. Suddenly a woman with a baby came forward to the man and shouted: “Why is it always you who makes problems and goes to demonstrations! I am fed up! Take this baby of yours! I don’t want to see you ever again.” She laid the baby in the hands of the man, and ran away. The soldiers left the scene in confusion. When quiet came, the man returned the baby to the woman. They had never seen each other before.

As we think of Bethlehem and the angels this Christmas, let us join our thoughts and prayers with women who get up each day to bring life and hope to their families and communities.

Andy 19/12/21