Enough Suffering: Find Ways to Comfort, To Learn

How best to confront our feelings of frustration, sadness, fear and anger as events unfold in the Middle East? We see the horrors of war and the attendant suffering of civilians In Israel and Gaza in the wake of Hamas’ terrorist attacks last week. Today a rocket explosion at a hospital in Gaza….the suffering is all but unimaginable. But we try to imagine, and ask what we can do in response to what we are learning, what we are feeling.

I know that on campus Jewish and Muslim students have gathered, sometimes separately and sometimes together, to talk, to mourn. Groups from all parts of campus want to understand more about what’s happening in the region, and faculty are stepping up to offer guidance where they can. War is notoriously difficult to grasp while the fighting is going on, and yet we want to learn, we want to know.

I am grateful to the Wesleyan Chaplains and many other faculty and staff for offering guidance in this difficult time. I have heard reports that Muslim students on campus are feeling particularly vulnerable right now, and that in addition to concerns they have about what’s happening in Gaza, they feel targeted as terrorist sympathizers or anti-Semites. This compounds the pain they are already feeling as they struggle, like all of us, to make sense of the awful news reports we see every day. We must ensure that Muslim students feel they are full members of the Wesleyan community. Because they are.

Of course, people at Wesleyan have different political views about what is happening in the Middle East. But these differences should never spill over into attacks based on race, ethnicity or religious belief. Neither Islamophobia nor anti-Semitism have any place at our University.

There is enough suffering right now. We should find ways to comfort one another, to learn with one another, to generate hope for peace in a time of brutal war.

7 thoughts on “Enough Suffering: Find Ways to Comfort, To Learn”

  1. “Sharing feelings” in times of evil brutality is NOT enough/
    Name the Evil for what it is.
    The shadow of the Shoah over the Jewish people is heavy! Very dark right now.
    With all the lies generated by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority!

  2. Dear President Roth,

    Thank you so much for your timely and supportive letter to those of us who hold Wesleyan dear to our hearts, always.

    Yes. As you said, it is difficult times. And, it is so hard to sort it all out…day by day many of us are understanding better the history of the plight of the Palestinian people and how they endured the vicious racist policies of various Israeli governments.

    The whole world has known for so long about the situation in Gaza. And, so many Israelis have done their best to make change for the better for the Palestinian people and, consequently, for themselves.

    But, sadly, those fights were not enough to make the necessary change.

    Today, I attended a rally in support of the Israel people and the Palestinian people, but not for the governments whose racist policies created this mess.

    I saw the Pastor who married my husband and I there holding a huge sign supporting the people of Gaza.. I saw a dear friend who spends all of her energy day after day, fighting for a healthier environment. And, I saw many Yale students and just lots of “ordinary” New Haveners, like myself who just want a good life for all those who are suffering right now.

    We all must do our part to be active and to push the peace process forward and to advocate for a two State solution.

    That is the only answer!!!

    It is one world, and when so many are in so much pain, we can’t help but to feel helpless!

    Thank you for your message.

    Lindsay Mathews, ’78

  3. Unfortunately, I just learned that there will be a pro-Palestinian rally tomorrow (10/19) “DEMANDING THE UNIVERSITY USE ITS VOICE TO STOP ISRAEL’S US BACKED GENOCIDE OF PALESTINIANS IN GAZA.” (that is the language taken from a post he shared with me on Yik Yak.)

    The university should step in with a strong security presence and ensure that all viewpoints are respected. If you are going to hide behind free speech, then enforce its tenets which includes no violence or threats made to others.

  4. President Roth,
    I very much appreciate what you have written here. I have watched in dismay as so many campus leaders have attempted to take sides on these events, playing to the demands of different groups, on campus and off. It looks especially insincere (and pathetic) when they issue follow-up statements to attempt to correct what the most powerful group saw as the shortcomings of an earlier statement. As you point out so well, there is horrible suffering all around, including suffering of those on your campus, and the rights and wrongs of the situation are multiple and arguable. Also, why does the world need college presidents putting themselves out as oracles of world events? We have enough of those. Your job is to lead an institution that cares for all its students and staff while fostering inquiry and civil debate. Thank you for doing that.
    John DiPaolo ’89

  5. Thank you President Roth for these words. As a parent of a current student, I’m comforted to know that Wes is caring for students in providing space, support and time for these complex emotions and conversations. I’m wondering if outreach is ongoing to your current students studying abroad; I’m realizing that my young adult studying abroad may be missing his “home” and “family” at Wes. I’m wondering if he and others would appreciate to gather, at least virtually, with their community at Wes

  6. Dear President Roth,

    I am surprised and disappointed by the nuanced complexity and moral ambiguity of your response to a massacre of civilians. I learned at Wesleyan that moral clarity requires moral courage and that universities need to nurture moral intelligence along with academic intelligence. Our world has known more than its share of brilliant brutes. Hope springs from the ability to distinguish good from evil and orient one’s moral compass to good. I hope your last word on the subject will not be “war”, but rather a moral lesson to the Wesleyan learning community that we have the shared responsibility to leave the world less in pieces and more at peace.

  7. Thank you President Roth. As a parent to an 11th grader in High School who is beginning to look at Colleges and Universities next year, it is important for us to see how leadership and a community come together (or not) in the most challenging of times. I am heartened to see your response above. Thank you and our hearts goes out to all who are directly and indirectly suffering. Warmest regards, The Muellers family

Comments are closed.