People working together for peace, justice and the restoration of the community of life.
Peacemaking in the Wake of Terror
By Sharon Delgado
Peace. Shalom. Salaam. Solh. (“Solh” is the word for “peace” in Farsi, the language of the Afghani people.) May we find peace, and find ways to be peacemakers in the world.
This is an incredibly difficult time. We are grieving the terrible loss of life and processing the significance of the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, symbols and centers of US economic and military power. We are bracing ourselves for what’s coming next, fearing for ourselves, our children, our world.
This is a pivotal time, a time of pause before the US takes action, a time to honor those who died, to comfort those who survive, while also finding the clarity and courage to rise up to support peace, to stand for justice, not vengeance, and to oppose policies that destroy life and hope.
Jesus said to the people of his day, “This people’s hearts have grown hard, their minds have grown dull. They have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear, hearts but do not understand.” (I want to remind you that Jesus was a Jew, and when he used these words he was quoting the Hebrew prophet Isaiah. And the Muslims consider the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament as sacred texts, as well as the Koran. So these words are not exclusive to Christianity.)
I think Jesus’ words apply to many of us in the US today. Our lifestyle has a dulling effect, with its busy-ness and distractions: TV., freeways, shopping as entertainment. Many are in denial about how our lifestyles and our government’s policies affect the rest of the world. Some trust the government. Others give up in disgust, feeling powerless. Many avoid public policy issues and escape into private life, behind walls in gated communities, hoping to feel insulated and safe.
But the illusion of safety and insulation has now been shattered by the events of September 11. People are paying attention to world events. All over the country, people are talking, listening, trying to make sense of what happened. For those who are committed to building a just and peaceful world, this is a unique opportunity to help shape the discussion and help move our nation and our world in the direction of peace.
Right now, people’s eyes, ears, and hearts are open. People are feeling grief for the victims and their families. I think of the mother who sent her daughter into the World Trade Center to use the bathroom right before it collapsed. I can still see the photo of the little boy draping himself over his mother’s coffin, weeping, while his grandmother tries to comfort him, weeping herself. As a mother and grandmother, I know how strong those bonds are.
In addition to sharing our country’s burden of pain, we must open our hearts to the pain of people in other countries. A recent Sentinel photo showed a young Afghani boy, about my grandson’s age, reaching out his hand to the Pakistani border guards, crying and pleading with them to let him go with his mother, who had collapsed and was being taken to the hospital. The Afghan people are fleeing to the borders, which have been closed, under orders from the US. Food shipments have been cut off. The poor, starving people, who have suffered through wars and now suffer under one of the most repressive regimes on earth, are desperately fleeing the threat of a massive US bombing campaign. If such a campaign is carried out, most of the people killed will be civilians, unarmed men, women, and children. This would be vengeance, not justice. It is unjust to target civilians, or to do harm so far out of proportion to any good that could come.
We must also open our eyes to our part in the pain of the world; we must look at our collective shadow. Why is racism so close to the surface, erupting now into hate? How does the US contribute to the climate of hate in the larger world, and how can this be changed? What would it mean to “repent” of harm done by our nation, or to repent individually for harm done in our name? True repentance does not just mean to be sorry, but to be willing to change direction, to turn around.
What could we do differently as a nation? We could honor international treaties that provide true security, and stop promoting trade agreements and supporting financial institutions that create inequity, poverty, and misery. We could stop supplying arms and training repressive regimes, counterinsurgency units, and, yes, terrorist groups. We could stop pouring money into a futile Missile Defense System, instead funding projects here and abroad that would lead to a peaceful, just, and sustainable world.
As individual citizens, it is our responsibility to get our government to move in a direction that will lead to peace. Otherwise, we will be complicit in creating a hellish future, with no way to insulate our children or grandchildren from the endless cycle of violence.
My hope is that people around the country are awakening to the dangers and opportunities of this present time. This would be an awakening of heart, an awakening of conscience, for this is what is required.
What can we do as individuals? We can pray, learn about the issues, teach, speak, continue the conversation. We can stand with our brothers and sisters who are Muslim or of Middle Eastern or North African descent, to protect them from racism and hate. We can let our elected representatives know that we want justice, but not vengeance. We can let the public know that some of us oppose the rush toward war, through vigils, marches, demonstrations, and even nonviolent civil disobedience, if necessary, to stand in the way of further carnage and to bring the hope of peace. We can insist that our civil rights be upheld, for voices of dissent must continue to be heard.
We feel grief and fear, and we need to be sensitive, but we cannot be timid now. Too much is at stake. We can plant seeds of hate or seeds of hope--future generations will reap what we sow. In closing, here is a poem by Wendell Berry:
In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter,
war spreading, families dying, the world in danger,