We take time during the Season of Creation to observe the International Day of Peace on September 21. Peace and right relationships are essential to promoting a culture of life and oneness with all creation. Achieving true peace entails much more than the laying down of arms. It requires the building of societies where all members feel they can flourish. It involves creating a world in which people of all races are treated with dignity and respect.
Sisters recently responded to a call for reflections on how conflict and events of violence impact their lives. Below are some of their responses.
Violence comes in many forms
During World War II, 1939-1945, I remember war’s violence and sadness invading our New York apartment each time my Bavarian immigrant parents heard of the deaths of my three grandparents. Doctors in Nazi Germany tended soldiers, not civilians. Four of my uncles were killed in combat or died starving in Russian prison camps. In 1944, American planes bombed our Munich Motherhouse. While visiting Germany in 1954, I saw these ruins.
A grade school classmate died in Korea; a student in Vietnam. During the Vietnam war, I spent a summer in Saigon caring for war orphans, some badly maimed. In the years ministering among homeless women in New York, I tended to the violence of bruises, head lice infestations and despair. With many of our sisters, I stood speechless in Dachau. At Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial, I listened to the stories of the hibakusha (A-bomb survivors). As an American, I felt uneasy, complicit.
Violence goes on and on: September 11, January 6, shootings and murders, national unrest, Ukraine, worldwide conflict, famine, blatant disregard for planetary well-being. Tears and anger flow. Some days I wish I were in Ukraine doing something, anything!
My old T-shirt boldly proclaims, “BE PEACE” Now in my life’s ninth decade, being peace calls me to be more aware of inclusive language and actions, careful use of paper and plastic, more sharing of my gifts and fewer peace marches. Greeting the morning sun with coffee, while delighting in my balcony’s flowers and tomatoes, I send out prayers and peaceful energy. I trust that somehow, mysteriously, my awareness, prayer and actions lessen violence and increase peace all over our planet.
Sister Lucy Njoki Waigwa
Banjul, The Gambia | Province of Africa
Contemplative silence as a response to violence
Violence is defined as “behavior involving physical force, intended to hurt, damage or kill someone or something.” It is disturbing that violence is done consciously and with a lot of intentionality, leading to disastrous consequences.
Mahatma Gandhi once stated that, “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats it’s most vulnerable members.” It is unfortunate that children all over the world have become targets of unprecedented violence. If the most vulnerable in our society cannot be protected, then it means that we have lost the essence of what it means to be human. Simply put, we have forgotten how to love. The way forward lies in getting to the core of who we are as human beings. What the world seems to have lost is a contemplative silence.
There is too much noise, such that any form of silence is either filled with unnecessary words, background music, blaring sirens or persistent honking from vehicles. Somehow, silence seems to frighten us. Silence is welcome when people pass away, and they are invited to a moment of silence to honor the dead.
The fruit of contemplative silence is that we honor the truth of our deepest motivations. We can never run away from the basic core of who we are, no matter how many distractions we occupy ourselves with.
Maybe this is what frightens us about silence; the possibility that we may find emptiness in our introspection, and we hurriedly try to fill it with any noise that can deafen the truth of what we find inside. What if all that is buried at the core of our being could be surrendered to God, who is the healer of our souls?
Since God is the creator of the universe, then being one in Him in stillness can help us to rediscover the essence of our being. In this way, rather than rely on weapons to protect us, we can overcome the hatred that chooses violence and leads to death by remembering that we all come from one race, and that is the human race.
When we choose to love, then God, who is the source of love, becomes the transforming power that heals all shapes and forms of violence.
Looking for more resources for peace? Visit our congregation’s website by clicking here.