Like many people across the globe last month I watched the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the subsequent hunt for the suspects that paralyzed the city with horror. All the while I prayed for the victims and hoped for a quick end to the senseless violence and fear that seemed to engulf a major American city for five days. Then just as that tragedy ended, a kidnapping of two Orthodox Bishops in Syria occurred amidst the escalation of that nation’s conflict. Both events, alongside the continued onslaught of fighting and panic that the news seems to serve up every evening, affirms my prayers for peace and understanding to come to the world.
One wonders how we can obtain peace here on Earth. To trust in the divine is a way to help prime the ground, but to truly sow the seeds of righteousness we must be prepared to do some of the work ourselves. Karl Barth was clear that “to clasp hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the word,” and I believe that in the spirit of that we, the members of the Wesleyan/Methodist family can do more to help bring about the change that our world desperately cries out for.
To continue the fight for peace, I have two challenges for our global family:
The first is to continue the work that the World Council of Churches started and promote a “Just Peace”. For too long, we have been told that a “Just War” is a real and true idea – it is our calling to reject this notion. Christ’s life and sacrifice taught us that real change can’t come through violence, but through love and peace. I urge everyone to read the Just Peace companion and to advocate their leadership – church and civic – to embrace it as a way to move forward.
The second challenge is to be a good neighbor, not only in your homes or in your life but also in your faith. Sectarian violence or rhetoric has no place within our world. South Africa’s rich mosaic of voices and giving leadership to the National Religious Leaders Forum for over a decade has informed my own journey. I ask that everyone make an effort to visit a temple, mosque or synagogue this month and introduce yourself and as a neighbor. The more we can reduce the barriers – real or self-imposed – around people and faith the more we will be able to see each other as friends and neighbors, brothers and sisters.
I know that in the midst of difficult times and violence that it is easy to only see the differences between people. But I ask that we refuse to take the easy way out. Instead, we should challenge ourselves to be the Christians that we hope to be and to demand peace during times of war. It is my hope that we find the time and place where anything other than that is an unacceptable proposition.
Yours in Christian Love and Service