It is unspeakable. The violence that we have watched on our screens in these past few weeks is heartbreaking and leaves us all bewildered and really at a loss for words.
In the Middle East Israel and Palestine are warring. The number of civilians dead in Palestine is now north of 400. The images of bodies is too much for me to watch.
This morning we learned that Chicago saw dozens of shootings in Chicago. The city has seen a steady rise in gun violence. What’s worse is – it barley registers in the news.
In Eastern Ukraine, the ongoing fighting between Russian Separatist and the Ukraine government has now led to a passenger jet being shot out of the air. News reports suggests that the people who shot that plane out of the air three days ago are prohibiting anyone accessing the crash. The Rebels leader is on TV boasting that he is in possession of the black box, he is in charge of the bodies that have been recovered. It is utter madness. Acts of violence followed by a violent attitudes and more violent actions that rob families of even the smallest shreds of dignity that they might be left with. Current actions by these ‘rebels’ is really an act of terrible violence toward those families of those who perished.
These rebels really sully the word rebel. As Christians we follow one who truly was a rebel. He was one who suggested that Love was the way forward. Love in the face of violence. The very life and witness of Jesus of Nazareth is one of love and the way of non-violence. As people of the way we stand in the face of increasing violence in our world and collectively display to the world that Love is larger than hate and love can and will overcome violence. As Corrie ten Boom put it, “Love is larger than the walls which shut it in.” As these weak human beings continue to inflict violence on others, the Christian voice is one which declares that we must do more to bring an end to violence. We must cross the roads that keep us apart.
Today’s meditation from Henri Nouwen reads:
We become neighbours when we are willing to cross the road for one another. There is so much separation and segregation: between black people and white people, between gay people and straight people, between young people and old people, between sick people and healthy people, between prisoners and free people, between Jews and Gentiles, Muslims and Christians, Protestants and Catholics, Greek Catholics and Latin Catholics. There is a lot of road crossing to do. We are all very busy in our own circles.
We have our own people to go to and our own affairs to take care of. But if we could cross the street once in a while and pay attention to what is happening on the other side, we might become neighbours.
We may not be able to head off to Ukraine or to Gaza today – but we can make some decisions about how we will live in our own neighbourhood. We have our own affairs to take care of. We have our own streets to cross. We have our own workplaces and our own friends and families to whom we can provide an image of peace and love. We can show that love cannot be contained by the walls of violence. May God strengthen us to embrace the way of nonviolence in our own relations with others
We pray for all victims of violence today. May God be with those families who grieve – in Israel, in Gaza, the Netherlands, Australia, and all around the world.
“We knock fists against the walls that wall us off from others. Give them to hear us. Give us to hear the terrible needs that beat like hearts behind others’ walls” (Frederick Buechner)
I read and meditated on the words of Nouwen’s wisdom. I reflected on events where I “crossed the street”, hoping to find a neighbour…. I say hoping because though in my heart – which was full of good intentions, and I had control of those intentions, they were not always well received by the persons I interacted with. It is very important to remember that people will more often than not express their gratitude for our efforts to establish new friends as adults. For children this is so much easier most of the time, but as adults? How many people have found themselves to be strangers in a strange land? Where not one single person was a friend before you travelled “across the street” to make a new neighbour? How did it feel when people thwarted your efforts, made you feel like you’re wasting THEIR time? Or what about the people who you joined for lunch — just so you wouldn’t have to eat alone — and the conversation suddenly turns unsavoury — being made to feel unwanted company instead of welcoming you to join them? I’ve had this and many more experiences like it. So much more so that now, I do a risk-return analysis on whether or not to make the effort. Having a tough skin for rejection was never my forté, for I was far more comfortable being an introvert than an extrovert. Then I am reminded to ask “What would Jesus do?”