Reprinted with Permission by Christian Peacemaker Teams
Simon of Cyrene is made to carry the cross
Simon was an innocent bystander in the crowd. We know from the accounts in the gospels of Luke and Mark that Simon did not step forward to take the cross. Different Bible translations tell us that the soldiers of the occupying Roman army ‘grabbed’, ‘seized’, ‘laid hold upon’ him, then ‘compelled’, ‘forced’ him to carry the cross.
In wars and conflicts, the bystander in the crowd is still made to carry the cross of suffering. Yet, how often are the peacemakers ridiculed and mocked when they speak out against the arbitrary loss of life?
In the first two months of 2008, Israeli security forces killed 146 Palestinians in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Gaza Strip. Like Simon, at least 42 were bystanders, who “did not participate in fighting when killed”.
Between 28 February and 3 March, at least half of the 108 Palestinians killed by the Israeli military in Gaza, were civilians. On 6 March, a Palestinian gunman entered a Yeshiva (a Jewish religious school) and killed 8 students, at least four under 18 years of age.
Just as the Roman soldiers ‘seized’ and ‘grabbed’ Simon, those with military power target the bystander. On 27 February the Israeli military targeted the civilian Interior Ministry in Gaza, damaging nearby buildings and killing a six-month-old baby. The same day, Palestinian military groups in Gaza targeted the Israeli town of Sderot, killing a 47 year old civilian.
We know that Jesus was not ‘compelled’ or ‘forced’ to take up the cross. We too are called to willingly take up the cross by speaking out against war, by saying that the death of any one person is too much, that violence leads to violence, it will never lead to peace.
Note: B’tselem is an Israeli human rights organization