Ohio-area Sisters and Associates are invited to a symposium entitled: Blessed Are the Peacemakers: Re-Imagining a World of Active Nonviolence. The program is sponsored by the Cleveland Diocesan Social Action Office and will be held Saturday, September 30, 2017, at John Carroll University Dolan Center.
This symposium is inspired by the April 2016 “Non-violence and Just Peace Conference” held at the Vatican to initiate a global conversation in response to the growing violence in our world. The focus of the symposium is on creative solutions to peace building and active non-violence with opportunities for education and dialogue rooted in the Catholic Peace Tradition. This day is for anyone wanting to engage and bring a creative understanding towards Catholic Social Teaching and building peace in our communities and the world. For more information go to the Event Page.
Recently I read Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon, (2008, Anchor Books, Pulitzer Prize for General Non Fiction 2009). Reading it felt like a forced march through a terrible time of our history. I was frustrated, disgusted, shocked, and humbled by my ignorance of the time described. I was deeply saddened to realize that some of the American History we studied in school was Fake News. We learned about slavery, even the evils of slavery, in a partial, distorted and cleaned-up version of the reality.
We were taught that the Emancipation Proclamation “freed” the slaves, but nothing about the “Age of Neo-Slavery” that thrived from the aftermath of the Civil War (a.k.a. the “War of Northern Aggression”) through the dawn of World War II, predominantly in the Old South.
After the Civil War the number of “free” black people posed a terrible threat to the Southern economy and status quo. Powerful white supremacists successfully addressed this by brutally arresting blacks on often trumped-up charges of minor crimes, and after a sham or no trial, sentencing them to become indentured servants to the opportunistic capitalists who paid their inflated court fees and fines.
These unjust sentences extended until the “criminals” worked them off, frequently under inhumane conditions. Terms were often unjustly extended.
These “prisoners” picked cotton (by the ton), worked in mines, cleared forests, made bricks, treated iron, and built roads in chain gangs, all grueling work and mostly under sub-human conditions: nakedness, filth, starvation, epidemics, unconscionable beatings, and near total denial of their humanity.
I finished the book on the World Day of Prayer Against Human Trafficking. Trafficking is similar to the post-Civil War peonage in many ways: capture, “ownership” threats, violence, rape, and forced addiction.
The evils of slavery and trafficking bring to mind our national crime of shameful treatment of “illegal” immigrants: separation of families, unjust imprisonment, vindictive sweeps of neighborhoods looking for victims, trumped-up charges of mostly petty crimes, sham trials and sentences, and worse, deportation. This is a cruel form of human subjugation for the crime of being “other”—another misguided criminal attempt to “Make America Great Again.”
I often wonder what is the motivation to engage in behavior that denies the humanity of another; behavior that engages in violence and sin. I think of fear, early childhood trauma, derangement, addiction, discordant emotions. But they don’t fully explain these instances sub human inhumanity to other humans.
How can we come to realize that we are all brothers and sisters, all members of God’s family, and that the Reign of God is among us?
Why do I say that? Is it because I don’t think God is listening? Is it because I don’t think God cares? Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that praying for peace won’t work because we think that’s all we have to do. We think if we pray long enough and often enough that will do the trick. We believe that God will bring the peace. But peace doesn’t come.
Jesus said: My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John: 14-27)
But we are afraid. We do not behave as those who trust in God. We take a defensive position and arm ourselves both mentally and physically. Jesus said that he bestowed on us His peace. That didn’t mean that he was covering us in an impenetrable Invisibility Cloak like the one Harry Potter had. He meant he was putting his peace in our hearts, but we don’t accept it. We don’t live like people who are at peace. The only way the world will know peace is when those of us who have been given Christ’s peace share it. To do that, we have to nurture that peace within us so that the peaceful response will be automatic.
I don’t have my head buried in the sand. I know how violent this world is, but, I also know that peaceful solutions must be found. Peaceful solutions must be spoken. Take, for example, the issue of refugees. Amid the turmoil caused in Europe of thousands of refugee pouring across borders, Pope Francis said that if every Christian Congregation in the world took in one family, there would be no refugees.
We are not listening. We have allowed the agents of fear and distrust to cloud our vision. When we read scripture, we see that Jesus was a victim of the violence of his world on purpose. He could have avoided it, but he chose not to. Was he naïve, or was he setting an example?
It seems to some of us that we would be more peaceful if we had a gun. Violence is the easy answer. Consider at the time of Jesus’ arrest. Peter, who had walked beside Jesus for three years, tried to fight them off by grabbing a sword and cutting a man’s ear off. Jesus quietly said, “No, Peter” and calmly re-attached the ear. The words, “Those who live by the sword, die by the sword” must have rung in Peter’s head the rest of his life.
Don’t get me wrong; I know what courage it takes to be peaceful. Most people inherently know how dangerous the peaceful path is, but it is still the only way.
The Dominican Sisters of Peace, with whom I am honored to be associated, have one message: Be Peace. Pray with them, that God will continually remind you that his Peace is within and you have the power to bring peace.
Have you ever found money in a pocket that you forgot was there? Didn’t you feel great? Even if it was just a little bit, it still felt like a windfall. That’s the feeling I pick up in today’s gospel with the buried treasure and the pearl of great price. There’s an excitement and anticipation of wonderful things to come. I felt like that recently when I read this quote by St. Thomas Aquinas from his Summa Contra Gentiles, “The role of the wise person is to meditate on the truth, especially the truth regarding the first principle and to discuss it with others.” Does it sound familiar?
Later in the Summa Theologiae, Thomas would apply this concept to religious life saying, “the contemplative life is, absolutely speaking, more perfect than the active life, because the latter is taken up with bodily actions: yet that form of active life in which a [person], by preaching and teaching, delivers to others the fruits of his/[her] contemplation, is more perfect than the life that stops at contemplation, because such a life is built on an abundance of contemplation, and consequently such was the life chosen by Christ.” Thomas makes a case for the importance of contemplation but also how one should share the insights with others. “Contemplare et contemplata aliis trader” – to contemplate and hand on to others the fruits of contemplation.
I think of contemplation a little like searching for buried treasure. Most of the time when we meditate, nothing happens – there’s no treasure in the field. But every so often, we experience the gold of understanding, a pearl of wisdom or a diamond (with it’s many facts) of new insight. Even if we don’t find anything, we empty our minds of our own thoughts and expectations and make it ready for God. This openness may lead to a revelation when we least expect it. When we do come across it, it’s marvelous, exciting, divine.
The importance of contemplation cannot be underestimated. In an address to the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2012, Archbishop Rowan Williams stated “[Contemplation] is the key to prayer, liturgy, art and ethics, the key to the essence of renewed humanity that is capable of seeing the world and other subjects in the world with freedom…it is the only ultimate answer to the unreal and insane world…To learn contemplative prayer is to learn what we need so as to live truthfully and honestly and lovingly.” (Richard Rohr Meditation: Revolutionary Contemplation. July 11, 2017)
We are invited by our generous God to participate in this essential prayer and, as Dominicans, to share the fruits of that prayer with the world. The Dominican charism compels us to share our fruits, which our ‘unreal and insane’ world desperately needs.
Mysterious yet generous God, lead us to your buried treasure. Give us the patience to wait and the tenacity to keep going. Reward us with fruits of our contemplation and courage to share with others those fruits.
In July, the United Nations banned nuclear weapons. The campaign to abolish nuclear weapons has been one of the longest goals of the United Nations, and on July 7, 2017, the world came one step closer to realizing a world free of nuclear weapons when 122 nations voted to approve the draft treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.
Some opponents are saying that this treaty will not be able to create change or eliminate nuclear weapons, and the nuclear weapon countries (Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, and the United States) boycotted the negotiations along with most members of NATO citing security concerns
Yet while there is still work to be done, Ray Acheson from Reaching Critical Will explained that this treaty “provides a solid foundation to change policies and practices, as well as to shift the thinking and discourse on nuclear weapons even further than the process to ban them already has.” This treaty shows the global community that a world free of nuclear weapons is possible, is desired, and is within reach. This treaty helps us to image a world free from nuclear weapons, a safer world, and a world that is one step closer to peace.
The next step will be the official signing of this treaty on September 20, 2017 in New York. After 50 countries have signed, the treaty will enter into legal force 90 days later.
In his message to the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, Pope Francis explained that “Nuclear weapons are a global problem, affecting all nations, and impacting future generations and the planet that is our home.” He continues by saying, “The desire for peace, security and stability is one of the deepest longings of the human heart. It is rooted in the Creator who makes all people members of the one human family. This desire can never be satisfied by military means alone, much less the possession of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.”
Former Vice President Al Gore recently said on a conference call that “political will is a renewable resource” and we, as members of the faith community have the ability to work for that renewal. We know it is time to abolish all nuclear weapons. The United Nations took a large step toward peace with the signing of this treaty; may we continue our work toward peace through prayer and advocacy for a nuclear-free world.
For more information about the treaty, see these FAQs here from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.