I am not going to tell you what to do. But, I will tell you a way that might help you and all of us to sort out the damp numbness that threatens to close us down. My answer grows out of my years of experience with CPT and other peace work. The work was sometimes rife with silence, not the good kind, the bad kind, where we drew into ourselves to that place where doubt forms, and our confidence in our ability to respond to local people with whom we work waned, and our trust of each other was tested.
Here is what sometimes happened to me when I tried to reclaim that place within where belief in enemy loving, nonviolent love, sacrifice and reconciliation once transformed me to embody a vision of something worth living for. My sadness and confusion gave rise to guilt that I had started something that I could not finish. Or, I questioned if I’d not been right to develop programs in such exposed conditions. In the hour of testing the vision in which I had placed so much confidence seemed to grow faint. Was this just another romantic dream?
I am ashamed to admit how often I have been through this valley of the shadow of death.
Something like this can happen to any Christian peace person. It’s the way it is on this earth. In a romance novel everything turns out good . But in life the good is not a distant place at the end of a journey. The good is the journey itself and the choices we make in each moment. So let’s talk a little bit about this journey of Christian peacemaking which is not simply a personal walk, it is a communal journey.
For the years that I was with CPT our teams tried to begin the day with common worship. I am sure our primitive attempts at worship must have looked wimpy to our Muslim friends whose ritual of five prayer periods every day always facing Mecca was so clear, and confident. I noticed over the years that when life got more dangerous and severe, Muslim prayer time become more disciplined. I also noticed that when we felt threatened, demeaned, or desperate to break through the silence with an act of love, our own worship which included scripture, songs and prayer became more focused. Sometimes in our confusion, laughter would lubricate our prayers. Other times a CPTer might jump up in the middle of our serious gathering seized by the Spirit with a message or a song. Some of us doubted the messenger but we knew we might just as well start listening to the Spirit.
Worship times launched us into discussions of the day’s activities; or in times of discouragement someone would take initiative to rebuild the team’s confidence. The internal silence was broken and now the real discussion about the outside silence began. What to do!!! Ideas spewed forth in a collage of chaos and the organizers in the team listened for the patterns in the chaotic threads. They searched for a way to weave it into a tapestry for action and witness, a cloth that would draw attention to the horror that the team was witnessing but with a luminous streak of hope that the darkness could not put out. When I was with CPT that was the way it worked some days when things were down.
Now let me get to my point. Prayer and peace action does not require a whole lot of elite education or money to get started. It does require discipline, continuity, diversity of talents and perspectives. You can do this and be renewed in the journey.
We need 1000 peacemaker prayer groups in Christian congregations and parishes right now. Go to your pastor, priest or Christian education director and say. “I want to invite a group of four to eight people to join me for a weekly peacemaker prayer and action”. You may need to do it in an evening, or on Saturday morning because the Sunday School hour might be too short. Tell the church what you are doing and keep them posted as you proceed. Don’t hide what you are doing even if you suspect that it might lead to conflict. This is God’s work.
Expect disagreement and expect unity. Expect surprise. Try to fashion your group so that it includes young and old, male and female. Cultural diversity also helps a lot. Now you are on the way. You have taken a big step to a safer terror-free world for your children’s children. There is going to be a lot to do. There will be voices of caution and times when everything you want to do can’t be done in one meeting time a week. What you do is going to come right out of your own imagination awakened by the Spirit within you.
The termination of terror, torture and war is not up to Washington, or Baghdad, or Kabul or London or Tokyo or Delhi or Paris or Jerusalem. It is up to us. As you pray together you will find ways to take on more responsibility for the power that you have been given. The cost for you will not show up on your credit card. But, you have the power in your internal bank, the power of enemy loving. It has only one condition. If this power does not get used it molds, smells bad, dies and the residue might create another disease. Prepare for surprises.
As you take these steps I invite you to let me know that you have made a start mailto:email@example.com. This detainee crisis on the back of a generation of torture and terror has shaken the Muslim world into genuine steps of faithfulness to the highest call within their tradition. I have a hunch that Christians are feeling similarly challenged. Will you take this first step?
Gene Stoltzfus firstname.lastname@example.org