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A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: A Christmas Story: A Tale of Two Babies

a sojourners view karl gaspar mindaviews column

CEBU CITY (MindaNews / 22 December) – Two babies were recently born into our households (one biological, the other surrogate).  Between these babies’ birth and the one to be celebrated a few days from now – the birth of the child Jesus which is celebrated by millions of people around the world – there are a few similarities. 

Baby Bianca is the first-born daughter of my niece Julia (younger daughter of my brother Fred and his wife Helen who live in Dartmouth, Canada) and her husband Cameroon. Bianca was born in his parents’ home in New York. Baby Tobi is the first-born son of my surrogate son George and his wife Dyan. Tobi was born somewhere in Hamilton East in New Zealand.    . 

Like Mary and Joseph, the two sets of parents relocated themselves from their previous home for mainly work reasons. Thus in a way I could refer to the two families within my kinship system as “refugee families” like Mary and Joseph who needed to leave Nazareth and found their way to Bethlehem. Separated from their families and relatives, like Mary and Joseph, they were left on their own to care for their little babies (although my brother, Helen and their other daughter Innah are spending time with Julia’s family in New York for a few weeks over the Christmas holidays).

Just as Jesus must have brought joy to his parents, Bianca and Tobi have been a source of delight not just for their parents but the relatives who share their happiness. There is, however, a world of difference between the context of Jesus’ birth compared to that of Bianca and Tobi. New York and New Zealand are safe places for the birth of children and medical facilities are easily made available (especially since Julia is a nurse and works in a hospital).

On the other hand, Jesus was born in circumstances in Palestine that were certainly not safe and secure. This is the same place  now suffering the consequences of a war waged by power-hungry rulers in Israel who have continuously dropped bombs (made possible by US support) on Gaza killing almost 20,000 civilians; of these, close to 5,000 are children.

To provide a background, the two-month old war that continues to rage in Gaza but which has spread to the West Bank in Israel, erupted on October 7 this year when Hamas forces crossed Gaza and entered Israel’s southern district, leading to the death of 1,139 Israeli and foreign nationals (including 764 civilians) and the abduction of around 250 people to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas arose in 1987 during the first Palestinian uprising also referred to as the intifada. This was an outgrowth of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian branch, considered by Israel and its allies (chiefly the US and EU countries) as out to destabilize Israel and to liberate the Palestinian territories which remain occupied by Israel. The group is committed to armed resistance against Israel and the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state. Given the geo-politics in the Middle East, Hamas supposedly is provided support from its neighboring Arab countries, especially Yemen, Lebanon and Iran.

Owing to the brutalities committed by Israel’s ethnocide against the Palestinians – with images of the bombings and subsequent deaths of tens of thousands of civilians covered live by the TV international news networks – global citizens across the world have marched in the streets  to protest this senseless war. Most heartbreaking have been the images of children killed or on the brink of death lying without medical assistance in the hospitals.

But despite the spontaneous outburst of the global citizens opposing the war and calling for ceasefire, the United Nations has remained powerless in ending this horrific war!  It managed to adopt a resolution that demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to ensure humanitarian access to food, water and medicine, as well as the release of all hostages.

However, this was a non-being resolution despite having passed with 153 votes in favor, 10 against and 23 abstentions. The US and EU countries remained adamant to allow Israel to sustain the war despite the atrocities being committed by its military forces. There was a short respite in the end of November with the truce declared to allow humanitarian assistance to reach the victims of war and which led to the release of a few hostages (in exchange for Palestinian prisoners). But it was short-lived. As of the moment, the bombing and killings continue even as Israel military forces claim to have penetrated the underground tunnels of Hamas in Gaza. But the declaration of a ceasefire and the end of the war remains an impossibility for the moment.

But we also know that it is not just in Gaza where thousands of children are killed or die for various reasons. There is the continuing war in Ukraine and the dirty little wars in many countries across West Africa; and closer to us, in Myanmar. There is also the war being waged against hunger, malnutrition and lack of medical facilities affecting millions of mothers and their children around the world especially in underdeveloped, poor countries. It is a war that continues to defy any long-term solution which, in turn, has created instability and insecurity in many Third World countries. And let’s face it – for all the efforts to combat poverty – the gap between the few elite and the great majority who are poor continues to widen.

This is the sobering thought during this Christmas 2023 season that has cast dark shadows in a manner that a blanket of gloom hover over our lives. Despite the attempts of our consumerist society to cheer us up this Christmas season with its glitter and twinkling lights, it is difficult to build up a cheerful spirit and to let go of our worries to embrace the joy of Christmas! One can only yield to a modicum of happiness knowing that the Messiah was born more than two centuries ago, an event that we Christians believe has fulfilled God’s promise for our salvation from eternal damnation.

As for me, I find deep joy this Christmas as I am truly delighted that two of my grandchildren were born recently. My only regret is that they are oceans away from me and I could not hold them in my arms to sing to them a Christmas lullaby.

A meaningful Christmas to one and all. And may 2024 be a year when the wars will end and we can all live in peace!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is Mindanao’s most prolific book author. Gaspar is also a Datu Bago 2018 awardee, the highest honor the Davao City government bestows on its constituents. He is presently based in Cebu City.)

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