As I write this you are preparing your Christmas and New Year sermons. During my years as the Director of Christian Peacemaker Teams I grew in my understanding of violence, terrorism and the “fight” for freedom. When we began I believed that a tiny organization would only make a slight inroad into our common task of ending organized killing. I believed that the spiritual and practical power of the world wide church would eventually be the pivotal force in changing the outcome.
Two years ago I was in Baghdad where I spoke with many Muslim leaders in the Mosques. For some it may have been their first contact with Christians. We listened to each other explain our work and our needs. Some understood that Christians thought of all of them as terrorists. Many were outraged by the disappearances of people in their community and the residual effect of the occupation which to them was terrorism. We were also concerned about these matters and found common ground. When we described our work in nonviolence and refusal to accept armed protection they listened and said, “That is what Islam is about. We can do that.” Others said, “It wouldn’t work here.” I witnessed them open themselves to the power of peace based on fairness in Muslim tradition. So today the fact that so many Muslim leaders have spoken up on behalf of hostages including CPTers is not an accident. This speaking up is a way to counter act how faith is hijacked by states and groups working out of pain and anger.
On that September 11 day I watched as the towers of finance and industry burned. I thought that this was an opportunity to put our best agape inspired imaginations to work. The world felt broken. Why would God allow this, unless it was a reminder to us of our deepest task as Christians.
Terrorists of all kinds, guerrilla supported, organized crime, and state supported believe that their purposes and pains will be made right by killing an enemy. By lashing back we set the terms for still another generation of terror. Our culture has worked this way for more than 5000 years back to the days of city states in Iraq.
God did not create us that way. The program of the Prince of Peace did not include repaying evil for evil. He proposed a program of enemy loving. I don’t presume to know the full power or dimensions of that program but I have enjoyed many occasions when I saw it work. The Prince’s program suggested a complete paradigm shift of how violence is engaged. We live in a time when experiments to carry out this new paradigm are widely initiated, conflict resolution, nonviolent communication, nonviolent direct action, all of which have some roots in the stories of the Prince before he was killed by the State.
I believe that Christian Agape love power bonded with some practical skill development can eliminate terrorism. Refining those skills may take as long as the Prince worked with his disciples, maybe shorter, possibly longer. Of course this will require time, maybe a long time to uncover our loving nature so that we may convey this spirit to humanity, nations, movements, government bodies including our own, any body that practices killing, torture, kidnaping in the light of day and in shadowy night programs. There is sustaining power waiting to be tapped deep in our souls. To some there is the gift of organizing. To some there is the gift of communication, To others, the gift of research. And to still others there is the gift of prayer and insight. And then there are the gifts of hospitality, teaching, preaching and record keeping. Finally I remind you of the gift of boldness and the gift of caution. There is a place for all of us in this moment of hope.
As we consider the great congregation of believers we are captivated by the legacy of pain, abuse, broken souls passed from generation to generation, some would say “unto the seventh generation” perhaps longer. I call upon us to awaken the souls of broken warriors, so hungry for hope, so ready to know the fullness of the Prince’s program of peace, so wanting to believe.
What a blessing this century can be when Christians come together in a renaissance of peacemaking, harmonized and completed by the diverse gifts of nationality, culture, and gender. There is power in the people of faith to make all things new. I believe we have been placed here for a time like this to reinvigorate humanity’s journey and show major results in the Prince’s program. This is the time to be pastors to all God’s family.