Reflection on Keys

Reflection on Keys

In Matthew 16:19, we read "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."  This is a story about keys.

Yesterday I drank coffee and visited with a close Syrian friend who inherited her Palestinian identity from her father.  She shared with me that until she was 12 or so, she thought of herself as Syrian, but at some point in her adolescence, she was denied an opportunity because of her father’s Palestinian status. 

Her father was a refugee from the 1967 phase of the displacement of Palestinians by the Israeli Defense Forces, where 300,000 Palestinians were forced to flee to Jordan, Egypt and Syria.  Many villages were cleansed of their Palestinian inhabitants.  He ended up in Syria, and still had the key to the house he was forced to leave at gunpoint. 

His daughter – my friend – always thought it was a bit strange that her father was so attached to that key from his past  --- until she herself experienced the bombing of Damascus soon after the beginning of the civil war in 2011.  She and her husband and five children lived in an apartment in Damascus.  One day, the bombing happened in their neighbourhood, and the building next door was completely demolished. In the aftermath, they were holed up for 3 days just hoping they would not be next.  She shared how she prayed that if they were to die, that they would all die – than none in the family would be left behind. They were finally able to get out of their safe hiding, and realized they needed to flee from the home and life they had enjoyed for all those years. They wanted to move from the big city where people didn’t know each other to a smaller community where people might recognize them if they were killed.  And so they moved.  The war followed them, and so they ended up fleeing to Jordan where they became refugees until they were sponsored to come to Canada. 

It was this experience that helped her understand her father’s attachment to his house key.  She, too, took all her house keys with her.  And she brought them with her to Canada.  Ten years on, she can still name which key is for which door to get into the apartment complex and then into her former dwelling.

I share this story because the images of war in Gaza are re-traumatizing her.  She shared that she “feels,” in her innermost being, what those families in Gaza are experiencing.  And that feeling can become too much for her.  I wonder how many of those people we see on the news walking south from Gaza City took their keys with them?  And, just as in 1967 when many of the newly displaced refugees were being displaced for a second time, perhaps those fleeing Gaza City actually have two sets of keys charting their journey of violent displacement.

When I visit with my friend, and reconnect with her children who are thriving here in Canada, I see beautiful human beings – generous, kind, principled, and confident in who they are.  And then I remember how some call the Palestinians “children of darkness” or “human animals.”  These racist labels shake me to the core. 

We have been given the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and are reminded each time we recite the Lord's prayer to be part of building God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. We have work to do with these precious keys.