Belizean Episcopal rector: What would Jesus do in the Israeli-Hamas War?

Fr. Rev. Cannon George L. Bonner delivers homily at the funeral service last month for Vincentian-born community worker Joseph Alexander “Alex” Hinds.
Photo by Nelson A. King

A Belizean-born Episcopal (Anglican) rector in Canarsie, Brooklyn, who claims that he had experienced racism and discrimination when he and his family first moved to the Brooklyn neighborhood 40 years ago, is now asking “what would Jesus do” amid the Israeli-Hamas War.

Using the acronym WWJD for “What Would Jesus Do,” the Rev. Canon George L. Bonner, rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, on Farragut Road in Canarsie, said his response is that he is a Christian and could only see what is happening through the eyes of his master.

“What’s happening in the Middle East today is brought to us live, as we sit in our living room and watch national television,” Fr. Bonner, whose congregants are predominantly Caribbean, told Caribbean Life exclusively on Saturday.

“We see the devastation of the entire neighborhood,” he added. “Yes, there is guilt on both sides. How do you justify killing 1,000 innocent people to capture one?

“The message on a Christmas card reads, in part, as follows, ‘Is the world today any different from the world in which Jesus came?’” Fr. Bonner continued. “When Jesus was born, Herod, the king, slaughtered the innocent, with the hope of destroying the infant King. Today, both sides are guilty of burning and bombing babies. Innocent people were forcefully removed from their homes; some murdered, others held as hostages.”

In retaliation, Fr. Bonner noted that “the homes of Palestinians are being demolished, all of their earthly possessions are destroyed.

“Hospitals are bombed, neighborhoods are levelled, countless lives are lost, thousands are literally homeless,” he said. “There is a tremendous shortage of food, also water and medical supplies.

“The heart of the Christian should be bleeding at the sight of such a sad picture,” he declared. “It is so unfortunate that God’s children cannot live together in unity, especially considering that these are all children of Ishmael and Isaac, father Abraham’s sons.”

Fr. Bonner said the Mosaic Law came to an end with Jesus, stating that, for followers of Christ, “it is no longer an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

“Jesus’s new law is ‘Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and love thy neighbor as thyself’,” he said, adding that “Jesus also said, ‘Blessed the peacemakers’. We must practice what we preach.”

Fr. Bonner said several leaders of the free world, “including our own, profess themselves to be Christians.

“When will they declare that enough is enough?” he asked. “Too many innocent lives have been lost; too many innocent families have been destroyed.”

Fr. Bonner said there is some parallel with what happened in Jesus’s time and today.

“Not only were the innocents slaughtered by Herod, but families, including Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus, fled from Palestine to safety in Egypt,” he said. “Today, the Palestinians would love to pursue a safe haven in Egypt, but this is denied them for political reason.

“For sure, Jesus is not smiling, as He views the events of the past month,” he added. “The hearts of the leaders on both sides are hardened. They are no longer able to feel or care. On the contrary, the hearts of people across the world must be bleeding.

“In a very moving sermon by a priest in Palestine, he declared that racism, discrimination, injustice, the unwillingness to treat others as equals are at the core of the violence and division,” Fr. Bonner continued. “The right to exist, the right to vote is being denied to a particular group.

“The pastor’s, and our collective, prayer is that the day will come when the people of Palestine will have the right to self-govern and the borders of their country will be clearly defined and respected,” he said. “We pray that the dignity of every child of God will be respected.”

Fr. Bonner urged that we must continue to dream of living in a world that the Psalmist envisioned.

“Oh, how good and pleasant it is when we can live together in unity,” he said. “As  Christians, we must never give up on that dream.”

Fr. Bonner said he personally considers slain US civil rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to be “our Moses.”

“He had a dream; we must keep that dream alive,” he urged. “We are also reminded to keep hope alive. We must work to create a future and a better place for our children and grandchildren.

“As Christians, we must never forget that repentance and forgiveness are at the heart of our religion,” Fr. Bonner said. “We must love our enemies. We must turn the other cheek.

“One of the fathers of our Episcopal Church describes Christians as ‘crazy,’” he added. “Yes, we are called to do what others would consider to be abnormal. Imagine being asked to forgive 70 times seven and to love our enemies.”

Fr. Bonner said he was one of the pioneers, one of the John the Baptists, who paved the way for others to settle in Canarsie.

“This is God’s world; we are his children – all created in His image,” he said. “There is enough for all of us. It is so unfortunate that we are not willing to share.”