In 1981, the United Nations established September 21 as International Day of Peace, a day for all nations and people to honor a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace. Faith communities throughout the world have also marked this day by asking believers to pray for peace and reconciliation throughout the globe. 2013’s theme was to educate others about peace and how to “build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity”. The theme and sentiment behind it is beautiful in its simplicity and directness and the violence that happened this year on September 21 jarring in comparison.
By now the news has been gathered and disseminated: a shooting spree at a shopping center in Nairobi, Kenya, an attack on mourning families in Baghdad and a bombing outside of a church in Peshawar, Pakistan all occurring on the same day. The death toll continues to climb and people throughout the globe mourn those lost in these senseless tragedies and wonder what will happen next.
What is known in the aftermath is that these attacks are motivated by religion – or rather a crude and mocking version of the religion that the culprits claim to be part of. Despite the claims of those who take responsibility for these reprehensible acts, this was not an act by any religious group or sect. Instead, it was an attack on people going about their day worshipping, shopping and living their lives by a group of misguided souls. We must remember this most of all. It is not Islam that bombed churches or continue to hold hostages, instead it was the work of a marginalized few.
Pakistan is home to the Pak Methodist Church. We know this church to be a small and vibrant place. Bishop Irfan Paulus of the church has already began to rally support for aid to come to those effected, writing that “on my call, our Christians held 3 peaceful promenades… we remained peaceful during this promenade, sang religious songs and held prayers.”
Nairobi is also a very special place for the World Methodist Council, a place where in 1986 over three thousand believers gathered from all over the globe during the 15th World Methodist Conference to help celebrate the arrival of a new era of World Methodism and an acknowledgement of the Christian Church’s continued growth in the global south. At this conference then-Council President Bishop William R. Cannon said “to Jesus and to him alone, we owe the concept of the infinite worth of every human being born into the world. He taught us that every person, no matter who that person is, is precious in the sight of God and must be respected as a child of God. To abuse one of God’s children is to abuse God himself. ‘In as much as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me’ (Matthew 25:40).”
As Christians in the Wesleyan tradition, member churches in the World Methodist Council are connected both by our shared commitment to the historic creeds of the church and by our shared Wesleyan heritage. These connections make news of violence against our member church, The Church of Pakistan, greatly painful. We lift up Bishop Samuel Azariah, presiding bishop of The Church of Pakistan, in prayer as he leads our sister church through this difficult time, and call upon all our member churches to pray for the health of those injured during this attack and for solace and peace for families and friends of those who died during the violence. The Council also asks that we remember the worth of each and every human being, be they the victims or perpetrators of this act. The World Methodist Council appeals its Member Churches pray for the health of those injured during these attacks and for solace and peace for the families and friends of those who died during the violence.