Karen’s Blog

Thoughts on a changing profession and life


with 59 comments

Looking towards the West Bank from East Jerusalem.

Looking towards the West Bank from East Jerusalem.

       I just got back from a trip to Palestine

       I visited the West Bank once before in the late 1990’s while covering a story about genetics. I worked with both Israelis and Palestinians, photographing a school for the deaf. Of course I knew of the conflicts between the two groups, but the school was a rare example of cooperation and I wasn’t there long enough to absorb the complexity of the issues.

           This trip was different.

           I am still trying to comprehend the politics driving tensions between two groups of people with long histories who believe in God.

The border wall that separates Bethlehem from  Israel.

The border wall that separates Bethlehem from Israel.

        The main expression of this tension that I encountered was the restrictions on movement. As an American I take freedom of movement in our huge country for granted, knowing that I can drive thousands of miles without visas or border checks.

           But in the close confined space of the West Bank and Gaza, movement is another story. I spent a full week going in and out of the multiple checkpoints strung around the area. Standing in what seemed like never-ending lines and undergoing scrutiny at each crossing, I began to see how stressful the situation is for many of the people living in the area.

Pilgrims visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Christians believe Christ was crucified, died and rose from the dead.

Pilgrims visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Christians believe Christ was crucified, died and rose from the dead.

Yet within those restrictions, the signs of faith were everywhere.  In the old city of Jerusalem, I walked through streets jammed with churches, mosques and synagogues, each of them holy to believers of the three major faiths that are expressed in this remarkable city. The beauty of the ancient buildings and the sincerity of the faithful who visited shrines, lit candles and offered prayers was moving. Even a non-believer would have been touched by these many examples of faith.

            Still, there is perhaps no other place on earth where tensions between different religious groups are more strongly encountered, whether as restrictions on movement, like those I encountered, or in a host of other ways.

             I returned home wondering about this contrast between tension and faith.

             As a journalist I’ve been privileged to visit many societies and witness a wide range of cultural behaviors. Most peoples have a belief in something larger than themselves—a spiritual being or god, with those beliefs often expressed as a religion. Yet nearly every religious group has had its ugly moment, persecuting people who don’t believe as they do.

            I’m troubled by the idea of people being oppressed, hurt or even killed because of their beliefs might not agree with the beliefs of another group.  So what is the point in being faithful, if too often, the result leads to tensions like those I encountered on my trip—or worse?  However despite these doubts, I try to remain faithful.

             I blame it on the nuns.

In the early 1990's, an Irish Catholic nun gives care in a rural Ugandan hospital.

In the early 1990’s, an Irish Catholic nun gives care in a rural Ugandan hospital.

          Back in the 1990’s while working in south western Uganda, I came across small communities of European nuns helping people who were not of their cultural, racial or religious background. They were providing the best care they could for the sick and afflicted.  The AIDS epidemic was building steam, with death rates rising into the millions. Women and children were especially susceptible. At the time there were no drugs. All the nuns could do was keep their patients comfortable, letting them die with dignity. Despite having no money, the nuns provided a comfortable cot and clean white sheets for each patient. The nuns were sustained by their faith that all human beings were loved by their god and should be treated with dignity in life as well as death.

             On that same trip, I met another group of nuns working in rural Sierra Leone. They were nurses at a hospital treating victims of Lasso Fever, a close cousin to Ebola.

            In addition to the health risks these women faced in dealing with such a deadly disease, Sierra Leone was about to explode. Just over the border in Liberia, five nuns had been murdered. The nuns I had met in Sierra Leone only had a short wave radio with which to contact the outside world. If trouble came, help would be a long time coming. Despite living under this cloud of potential violence, they kept the hospital immaculate. Their guesthouse where we stayed was one of the cleanest I’ve ever encountered while traveling through Africa.

            The nuns could sense the violence that was coming closer and closer to their hospital. One evening during dinner I asked a sister if she was afraid. Her only response was “We cannot live our lives in fear. We must do the work that God would want us to do.” I will never forget the way she said it with patience and conviction.

            Several months later rebels overtook the hospital, killing a priest, a visiting doctor from the Netherlands, his wife and their two-year old daughter. A volunteer traveling in the doctor’s vehicle was captured and brutalized until she was rescued.

             Miraculously, the nuns escaped. Their vehicle was shot up but not a single nun was hit.

             These women lived their lives faithfully and courageously.

            And because of these nuns, I try as a journalist to live up to their convictions and report the best I can about the injustices of the world. It’s becoming harder to cover these sorts of stories. It’s expensive to travel to devastated areas. Many media companies don’t see the point especially if the issue is in a region that most Americans know little about. They want to quantify results; yet attaching metrics to images isn’t a nice tidy process. Does one specific image change anything?  Perhaps not, but over time, it’s much more likely that a continual flow of images may eventually create connections and foster understanding. With understanding, change can begin.

            In that, I do have faith.

Dome of the Rock , a holy site in East Jerusalem.

Dome of the Rock , a holy site in East Jerusalem.

Written by kasmauski

October 11, 2013 at 4:16 am

59 Responses

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  1. As always Karen, your write from your heart and share with the rest of us your insight in a Holy way. Blessings to you, Helen and Ron

    Helen and Ron Russell

    October 11, 2013 at 5:44 am

  2. Reblogged this on Gabbie Blog.


    October 11, 2013 at 5:48 am

  3. The first photograph is beautiful, as is the last one of the Dome of the Rock 🙂


    October 11, 2013 at 6:35 am

  4. Such a lovely piece, I love it, really.

    I am originally from Palestine but never been there. My grandpa’s were immigrated from Hebron-Palestine in 1948 and we no longer can go there even for a visit. Injustice and oppression in this unfair world has taken a new level of carelessness. Governments and politics don’t care about those who get killed on a daily basis as long as they are doing what serves them. As I always say, it’s greed, selfishness and lack of faith which made us blind and merciless.

    Thanks for your sad but true blog, It’s worth a super like.


    October 11, 2013 at 6:39 am

  5. Reblogged this on idealisticrebel and commented:
    a blog of faith


    October 17, 2013 at 8:44 pm

  6. Belief in religion and gods have been the cause of wars, torture, greed, murder, hate, misery, lies, pillaging, thieving, raping, and discrimination. It continues today in many of the same and some different forms. Killing in the name of an idea, an idea different from another person’s idea. I think it’s strange that anyone knows what their god would want them to do. We just make things up and then believe what we made up,, then turn it into something bigger than ourselves,then name it and follow it, then kill for it. And the killing never ends. All killing is because someone believes something different than someone else. The government, the super wealthy, religion and institutions are all out for power over others and money. Greed and power. That’s what it’s all about. And those people will do anything to get it.


    October 17, 2013 at 9:54 pm

  7. This, to me, is true journalism and a true story that needs to be read. Well done in your reporting!


    October 17, 2013 at 10:02 pm

  8. All religions are basically the same. Therefore it is difficult to believe they cause such hatred. They all preach goodness, kindness and the humanity of people and yet there is a high decree of evil. I remember the mafia and their going to church one day and the next murdering people. Then the next week get forgiveness and do it all over again. God cannot forgive such behaviors. It is the same today, a bus with innocent children is blown up and the people who did it pray the next day to God. God does not condone murdering anyone. When will this stop, who knows?


    October 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm

  9. Awesome photos. Please be safe!


    October 17, 2013 at 10:32 pm

  10. Reblogged this on Wassim Matmata and commented:
    Well writen story about the Palestine Israel conflict


    October 17, 2013 at 11:01 pm

  11. This is lovely, love the way you write!


    October 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm

  12. So beautiful how you said the nuns were unharmed by the end. I guess God preserves people who serve him, so that they don’t die before they’ve completed their purpose or rather their part of a universal purpose of helping mankind…

    Wonderful article! Thanks for sharing! 🙂


    October 17, 2013 at 11:16 pm

  13. Nice post, Karen.


    October 17, 2013 at 11:18 pm

  14. Thank you for letting us see inside this world…your world. Thank you for showing us the thorny side of faith and showing us your faith…for keeping the faith. This is a beautiful post.


    October 18, 2013 at 1:47 am

  15. Your article enveloped me with in waves of vivid-and at times-disturbing imagery.
    Very well written. Thank you for your time.


    October 18, 2013 at 2:37 am

  16. This is wonderful. Such a beautiful experience!



    October 18, 2013 at 4:22 am

  17. Reblogged this on Saurabh S Haldankar.


    October 18, 2013 at 6:25 am

  18. Absolutely beautiful my dear… what amazing power of expression. I loved it. Spectacular are the piks too. Cheers.


    October 18, 2013 at 7:04 am

  19. wonderful pics!! Dome of the Rock is great

    digital marketing blog

    October 18, 2013 at 11:01 am

  20. This story is powerful and thought provoking. That nun you spoke to is truly an angel. Thank you


    October 18, 2013 at 11:31 am

  21. Wonderful post. Sometimes I wonder maybe it’s better if there is no religion exist in this world, since it cause much trouble, only because human still can’t tolerate others enough. But again, it’s not the religion that matter, but the faith. Thanks for sharing Karen. 🙂


    October 18, 2013 at 11:43 am

  22. Why I wish we would just evolve beyond this concept of god already, and call it what it is (*choosing* to do good or bad), I appreciate your article and thank you for writing it. I wish we as Americans were more aware of what’s really going on in the world.

  23. Amazing life you’re leading. I was having another terrible day being sick and then I read this. Now, I’m a follower.

    Lisa Chesser

    October 18, 2013 at 1:20 pm

  24. Great read!
    Congrats on gettin’ Pressed!!

    Midwestern Plant Girl

    October 18, 2013 at 4:46 pm

  25. I was reflecting on the nuns words:” We cannot live our lives in fear.” This is a clear statement of Faith, which provides them with the comfort of the omnipotent God that will always stand by them regardless of the circumstances. Faith comes from within, that’s why its fruits are pure and charitable.
    Thank you for sharing the story.


    October 18, 2013 at 7:20 pm

  26. I have to say, this is truly beautiful. As a Christian, I’m used to being belittled and persecuted by the American journalists, so this is refreshing and surprising. Thank you.

    Susannah Ailene Martin

    October 19, 2013 at 2:19 am

  27. Nice city dog


    October 19, 2013 at 2:26 am

  28. Wow what a lovely,beautiful and equally meaningful read for an early Saturday morning, Thank you 🙂


    October 19, 2013 at 9:26 am

  29. Reblogged this on Cosmical Traverse.


    October 19, 2013 at 10:01 am

  30. This is truly a wonderful read. The story of the nuns who escaped is a great example of faith can move mountains. Thank you for sharing this!

    Green Coffee Bean London

    October 19, 2013 at 11:24 am

  31. Those women are a great inspiration for all of us humanitarian minded folk. Your photograph of the wall reminded me of my trip to Belfast, quite different, a conflict more political in nature, but divided nonetheless. Have you been?
    We were able to meet with lots of wonderful people and orgs working towards reconciliation. In my opinion, capturing the process is always more beautiful than the finished product!

    A Hopeful Doc

    October 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm

  32. So much to think about…..safe travels.
    Stunning photos.


    October 19, 2013 at 1:58 pm

  33. Feel sad for them. How long the war will continue. Child live without happiness. Gaza just like a big prison for them. I am a muslim and lovepeace.


    October 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm

  34. Reblogged this on Bipolar Altruist.


    October 19, 2013 at 3:58 pm

  35. wow! Please can I reblog this to my audience?

    Great work!


    October 19, 2013 at 8:26 pm

  36. Reblogged this on BILSMART and commented:
    Great work from Karen!


    October 19, 2013 at 8:28 pm

  37. If you look at history, crimes committed by humanity is a direct result of their destructive nature and not always religion; note Stalin and Mao who both happened not to really have faith or religion. So what you have written about these Nuns is a beautiful example of how religion can actually be soothing, instead of destroying. Enjoyed reading it very much!


    October 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm

  38. I wish I could go to Jerusalem. One day.

    Your post is really insightful and interesting – and moving. Thanks!


    October 19, 2013 at 11:07 pm

  39. Great Work! You do an amazing job of pointing out the best in faith–the sacrifice of the nuns–and the worst–the violence which stems from it.


    October 20, 2013 at 10:20 pm

  40. Reblogged this on Brad's Blog and commented:
    Great article about faith!


    October 20, 2013 at 10:21 pm

  41. Firing true the ink and pixel, Karen’s Blog.


    October 21, 2013 at 3:34 am

  42. Great thoughts. This is so nicely written, I love it.


    October 21, 2013 at 6:03 am

  43. To speak frankly, if I may. At this point in the history of mankind the lion is supposed to be lying down with the lamb, and folks are not supposed to be studying war any more. The prophecy has been fulfilled. But prophecies have never changed the free will of people to choose to ignore what is always right in front of them: a path to peace.


    October 21, 2013 at 4:17 pm

  44. […] keeping with my new found desire to read new material every day, Karen’s Blog is my favorite blog for […]

  45. This post and the photography is beautiful, very acute observations on a very sad conflict…I think those who use faith to hurt others are simply taking advantage of something they know arouses strong convictions in others, and I agree that no one truly faithful can use it to justify oppression.
    Your blog is fascinating, and I feel privileged to have access to your interesting experiences, things most people are not able to expose themselves to in life.


    October 23, 2013 at 12:04 am

  46. Great photos here!

    Stuart M. Perkins

    October 24, 2013 at 1:52 am

  47. Beautiful pictures


    October 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

  48. Lovely post, thank you. I, too, have a love affair with nuns – especially the nuns at the convent where we worship. Their innate kindness and loving acceptance of humanity is an inspiration to me. Their prayers when we had a child born very ill sustained me.


    October 25, 2013 at 7:47 pm

  49. Nice observations. Amazing how the element of faith is so similar despite the form of our worship. 🙂

    The Sacred "i"

    October 27, 2013 at 9:19 am

  50. In understanding I do have faith too.
    Nicely written.


    October 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm

  51. Enjoyed this post.

    Evangelist Michael Hensley

    November 3, 2013 at 4:41 pm

  52. The time is near my friend… this issue soon to be resolved. go through the prophecies of both of the religious group you will know it.

    Thank you for the post!


    November 7, 2013 at 2:54 pm

  53. You took me me away. Captured my mind with knowledge and questions. Thank you.


    November 9, 2013 at 1:56 am

    • I believe that faith is only thing which is common among all religions. Nice post.


      November 12, 2013 at 1:12 pm

  54. Very well written. Great perspective and thanks for posting.

    Creating Space, LLC.

    November 22, 2013 at 6:51 pm

  55. Reblogged this on Tenesia Teri~Ann and commented:
    Faith it’s a powerful thing


    November 25, 2013 at 11:30 am

  56. Beautiful, thank you for this.

    Reconnect Revive Thrive

    January 9, 2014 at 9:51 pm

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