Wednesday, September 22, 2010

International Day of Peace: Called to Act

My friend Barb O’Conner is a persistent and passionate advocate for peace. She is one of the sponsors of JustPeace at our campus. Her efforts remind me that it is not just up to governments and movements to work for peace, it is up to all of us.

History of International Day of Peace

Since I have been on sabbatical I have become acutely aware of the need for peace. I am not talking about international peace. We have always been a world in conflict and issues of war and national conflict is where I would normally go to when thinking about peace. However, in recent weeks I have become aware of the need for peace at the local, community and even neighborhood level.

I attended a Native American-Catholic service. There they talked about the conflict of peoples and nations; however, they also talked about the need for peace in our homes. I attended an Ethiopian church and the congregants spoke of the history of conflict in their homeland. The church was housed in a former synagogue and I was reminded of the plight of Jews in Ethiopia.

I attended an Assyrian Holy Apostolic Catholic Church of the East. The church had suffered an arson attack after September 11,2001. They were attacked because someone assumed they were Muslim. The congregation expressed its struggle to follow the tenets of their faith and to love their enemies. The members know they are called to do this however they are also struggling because their ancient church is facing extinction.

I attended services at the Muslim Community Center of Chicago. The center had a burnt Quran dropped at it door step on September 12th of this year. I prayed with the men. It was a powerful and moving experience. I then met with the Imam. He expressed his gratitude for the show of support and he told me he was aware of the history of dialogue between Franciscans and Muslims. The Imam also spoke of his people being the target of hate and prejudice and the need for greater contact and dialogue.

Last weekend I was working outreach with my partner. There was a concert at Wrigley Field. We were on Broadway and Addison and looked toward Wrigley Field. The area was blocked by fire trucks, EMS vehicles and police cars. Their flashing lights were on and a helicopter was overhead. I thought there had been an accident or fight. What in fact occurred was the city and FBI response to an attempted bombing. A man had planned on bombing a bar near the concert with the goal of maximum carnage. There were 40,000 people in the area. I am grateful for the vigilant work of the FBI and CPD. I am also grateful to the members of the Chicago Arab population who alerted officials to the potential threat.

Some of our guys arrive at the Ministry Center with black eyes and bandaged hands. They talk about the danger on the streets. The police are aware that they are in one of the most dangerous policing environments in the nation.In the last seven days over 120 drug dealers have been arrested, just on the north side of the city. The tension on the street is palatable.

Last night our intentional faith community, the Kaio community was praying. Because of the reminders from Sister Anita I remembered it was the International Day of Peace. I remembered that working for peace was not just Barb O’Conner’s responsibility. So I prayed for peace in our world and in our neighborhood. This was not just going through the motions, the need was real. Two weeks ago two people were shot behind our local fast food restaurant. This was the second time two people were shot there since July. Last weekend a man was shot in the head. This occurred only a few blocks away. Last Saturday a man attempted to rape a woman at the Foster Avenue beach house, at noon. So I prayed for peace in our neighborhood.

As soon as I prayed the sirens went wild. Cops were all over our street. Two people had been shot, nine bullets fired. One of the shootings occurred after the police arrived. This happened at 6:00 PM. It was still light out, it was a brazen attack.

I do not want to exaggerate the current situation. I do not feel in any personal danger. I am not an at-risk person. I also do not want to minimize the danger to folks who are homeless, on the streets, in violent relationships or poor.

So, I want my government to do what it can to stop the violence. However, I know they alone cannot solve this problem. I am reminded of the stubborn dedication of Barb O’Conner. I am reminded of the example of Brother Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio. We, I, have to work for peace. At this point for me that means to simply support those who are working toward peace. It means to support those who have been injured. It means I am required to speak out and to pray for peace. Please join me in this work and please tell me what you are doing in your part of the world to work for peace.

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