Faith, Commitments and Mideast Peace
Each person has to deal with various facets of faith. In my book, Living Faith, I describe how all of us predicate our decisions and actions on faith. Early in life, we have faith in our parents, later in peers or school teachers, then in our religious beliefs and in our nation’s moral/political values. Cumulatively, we develop (or lack) self-confidence, or faith in ourselves.
There is often a challenge in correlating these different commitments. My Christian faith has always been preeminent, as I worship the Prince of Peace. Still, from childhood I wanted a career in the U.S. Navy and served for eleven years, as a submariner. Although prepared for combat, my rationale was that my chosen profession was preserving peace.
Our life’s priorities are affected by our personal experiences. I grew up as a farm boy in the segregated South, and all my early playmates and friends were black. Of the five adults who shaped my life, other than my parents, only two of them were white. My future political commitments were shaped by my aversion to the official discrimination that I condoned in my youth, and my inaugural message as governor was “the time for racial discrimination is over.” Six years later, I announced that human rights would be the foundation of our nation’s foreign policy. For a quarter century, The Carter Center has promoted programs that fall under the broad umbrella of peace and human rights. I see these as compatible with my Christian faith.
The current debate about the Middle East has deep religious overtones and encompasses both issues. The inability of Israel and its neighbors to live in peace has an adverse effect on an entire region, and provokes anger and hatred throughout the world. In 1973, strife in the Holy Land even provoked a nuclear confrontation between the superpowers. At the same time, the plight of the Palestinian people represents one of the most abhorrent cases of human rights oppression on earth. Forced from their homes and land and surrounded by walls, they live under a system of mandatory segregation, with passes required to reach their jobs, schools, pastures and fields. A unique system of military justice deprives them of any legal ability to alleviate their suffering.
My most recent book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, is designed to break the existing stalemate and to prescribe a path to permanent peace for Israelis, with peace and justice for the Palestinians. All the major religions would endorse these goals.