Have you ever thought about all the people we depend on everyday and all the individuals, communities, and cultures that have influenced and formed us as we journey through life? It is no wonder that John Donne composed the phrase: "No man is an island," in his Meditation XVII, that a choral anthem by Joan Whitney and Alex Kramer is based on that poem, or that Thomas Merton wrote a book by the same title.We rely on one another for so much in life. In this present age of e-mail, internet, cell phones, and air travel what happens anywhere on the earth impacts us. We are social beings. In Matthew 18: 20 Jesus said that whenever two or three are gathered in his name, he is present. We stand together on behalf of each individual person and for the common good. Together we can accomplish what none of us could alone.On February 15, 2003 millions of peace advocates around the world protested. The protestors proclaimed a powerful message to political leaders and citizens across the globe. They also demonstrated the impact of networking and coming together for a common cause.Related to the war issue is the concept "Conscientious Objector." For those who teach or minister to high school students please check our website for information on that topic. You will also find information from the organization "MoveOn." Workshops for draft registration and "CO" counseling will be offered in our diocese this spring. Check our website for dates, times, and locations.The greater the numbers of voter advocates engaged on an issue, the greater the influence on legislators. If you encourage staff members, students, and parents to advocate with legislators, you may want to attend Rise to the Challenge: End World Hunger. Reverend Mariah Priggen, Regional Organizer for "Bread for the World" will conduct the "Offering of Letters Workshop" workshop offered at St. Charles Pastoral Center on Saturday, March 15, 2003 from 9:00am until noon. In addition to the guest speakers Sister Florence Muia of Kenya, Edith Calvo of Bolivia, and Deacon Roger Schmith, Advocacy Coordinator for the Diocese Peace & Justice Ministry.Attendees receive kit and planning tips to enable them to bring the program back to their parish. The "Offering of Letters" campaign lends itself to school community participation, as well. If you miss the workshop, it is still possible to do the letter-writing project. Contact Bread for the World for advocacy campaign materials.The Peace and Social Justice Ministry website carries news of current world and local situations, the Catholic position, action alerts, relevant resources and programs promoting social justice and peace. If you have some ideas for addressing peace or social justice issues in your classroom or would like to hear about those of others, please go to "Bulletin Board" and post your ideas and projects. Share them with other teachers and find some new ideas for your own classroom.
May God bless our united efforts to live justly! Gratefully, Joyce Ruhaak
Many of us do not look forward to the "cold of winter." January generally hosts the lowest temperatures of the year. One of its gifts to us, however, is the clear night sky illuminated by so many stars. The icy darkness images for us the pain, suffering, cruelty, indifference, and seemingly overwhelming obstacles to justice and peace in our world. However, the multitude of stars symbolizes "the Light of Christ," which penetrates the darkness, is unrelenting in its bright, transforming, hopeful presence, and empowers followers to reflect that light themselves. Nothing can constrain its power or dim its brilliance. "Whatever came to be in him, found life, life for the light of men. The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it." (John 1: 4-5)On December 16th these words became real for me. I accompanied Roberto Miranda on his mile walk down Route 171. He had been on death row for fourteen years for a murder he did not commit. Mr. Miranda participated in "Dead Men Walking," a relay from Stateville Penitentiary to the Thompson Center in Chicago. Each relay walker took turns carrying a petition that asked Governor George Ryan to commute the sentences of all prisoners currently on death row.Many of the exonerated did not have a hat, gloves, or coat to protect them from the wind and cold. Roberto had a borrowed jacket wrapped about his head and wore a coat and pair of gloves lent to him by supporters. As we walked and talked in the darkness I understood the injustice and cruelty done to Roberto and the other innocent people on death row. They were victims of the criminal justice and capital punishment systems. However, their own oppression, suffering, and sense of justice propelled them to speak and act on behalf of others.We experienced a paradox. The headlights of cars came at us in the blackness of early morning, but the exonerated individuals were actually the lights in the darkness. Their action and message drew the attention of all the metropolitan area media. The "Dead Men Walking" lit up the dark early morning sky and were beacons even in the light of day. Untruth, injustice, and evil will not prevail against them.Another dark reality is the possibility of war with Iraq. The United States Catholic Bishops issued a statement saying a war with Iraq cannot be justified. Catholics may seek conscientious objector status either because they judge a particular war "unjust" or because in conscience they cannot kill or participate in any war.Youth ministers and high school teachers and counselors have an opportunity to spread the Light of Christ by informing youth about draft registration and conscientious objector status. Before age 18, young men must register for the draft. If they are considering being a conscientious objector, it is best to indicate that on their draft registration. Also, they need to begin a file of evidence demonstrating the sincerity of their position. If the draft is put into operation, time will be too short to gather adequate documentation.Please encourage interested students to attend one of the two presentations given by J. E. McNeil, co-author of The Draft Counselor’s Manual. The first will be the evening of Saturday, January 25th in Joliet and the second in the early afternoon on Sunday, January 26th in Downers Grove. Exact locations, times, and other details will be forthcoming. CO counselor training will also be available in our diocese at a later date. Consult our website: www.paxjoliet.org or phone: (815) 834-4028 for updated information.
May we reflect the "Light of Christ" and encourage others to do the same. Wishing you God’s peace and love in this New Year, --Joyce Ruhaak
I had expected to encounter Jesus in Bolivia, but had no idea how profoundly or how frequently. One thing I learned was to be open and expectant at every moment and to be as present as possible to every person or creature before me. As a result God gifted me through little children, creation, and many people.In Isaiah we read, "And a little boy will lead them." (Is 11:6) I witnessed this quite often. Most pointedly, at a hospital for children I observed a five or six year old boy with a muscular disease. Patiently he labored to build a high stack of giant size Legos, accidentally knocking some down when his desire was to build up. Yet, he was so happy when he succeeded. Then, he would knock the blocks down, laugh, and start over very contentedly. The process took a long time. Never before had anyone demonstrated patience and contentment to me as well as did this child.Another young boy helped me find my way when I was lost. He took me by the hand and brought me to the area where I was to assist the therapists. He dropped what he was doing and stayed with me until I was situated in the proper place. Then he quietly returned to his classroom.In a barrio where the Mission Construction Corps had to climb many sets of steps up a steep hill, a dog led the way. Dogs are everywhere in Bolivia. Occasionally, they are not friendly. This feline, however, seemed to have a mission to show us the way and carried it out very conscientiously.The nurses, aids, and other staff members of the Cristo de las Americas Hospital also demonstrated hospitality, patience, and kindness in assisting me. Some untangled the religious articles that got matted together so I could distribute them to patients. Another translated my rudimentary Spanish into the indigenous Quechua language as we prayed together.Father John Enright, a beacon of light and joy wherever he goes, ministered to all of the team and many of the people in the Sucre Archdiocese during the mission trip. He rejoices in enabling lay people to minister effectively. Father had served as a missionary to Panama for twelve years at the time of Vatican II, early in his priesthood. The situation in one of the barrios reminded him of his former Central American parish. His celebration of Eucharist and preaching imaged Jesus and his mission very practically for us every morning. His preaching continued throughout the day in his actions, humor, and respect for all.The indigenous people and their children work very hard. Members of the Construction Corps work alongside them safeguarding their homes from the triatomine beetle that causes Chagas disease. The children and their parents do not have much time for play, but did perform their traditional dances for us at a party our last evening in Sucre.God taught me much on this trip, but so gently and lovingly through these people and the creation surrounding them. Christmas is the time of celebrating the most profound gift and teaching of all, Jesus! May we in turn lead others with tenderness and love.
Wishing you a peaceful and joyous Christmas, Joyce Ruhaak
It is now autumn. The leaves are falling, the weather is cooler, we realize the holidays are approaching. Our natural environment reminds us of our finiteness, our nothingness, and our futility, except for the abundant love of our Creator-Parent-God. Nature invites us to be reflective, empty, quiet, and to encounter God within ourselves, within others, and in all that is around us.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer in The Mystery of Holy Night gives some insight on where God might be found,
God wants to be where the understanding is outraged, where human nature rebels, where our piety keeps a nervous distance: there, precisely there, God loves to be; there he baffles the wisdom of the wise; there he vexes our nature, our religious instincts. There he wants to be, and no one can prevent him. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and grand, that he works wonders where man loses heart, that he makes splendid what is slight and lowly.
We definitely find God in the lowly. To assist them is to honor Jesus. We know this from all the Gospel stories in which Jesus aligned himself with the poor and oppressed. From Matthew 25 we know that to care for another person in need is to care for Jesus. Our Messiah himself became a helpless baby on the first Christmas. What a lowly experience for the Son of God, yet, what a profound revelation of the lavish, unfathomable love God has for humankind.
Alternatives for Simple Living publishes a booklet entitled "Whose Birthday Is It Anyway?" Our Peace & Social Justice Ministry requested such a resource with specifications relevant to the Diocese of Joliet. It invites alternative Christmas giving to the Diocesan Medical Mission, Construction Corps (working in Bolivia, in the U. S. with native Americans, disaster relief teams, and parishioners in Pembroke Township), or to twenty other suggested charity or justice organizations. Copies of the thirty-nine page pamphlet, which includes Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany reflections, discussion questions, and calendar, may be obtained by calling our office at (815) 834-4028.
May each of you enjoy a happy Thanksgiving and a blessed Advent!
In God’s peace and love,
Joyce M. Ruhaak
Today we are bombarded with the drumbeats of pending war. It permeates our psyche, our mind, our imagination, our senses, even our soul. As followers of Jesus, we ask ourselves what Jesus would do? Surely, Jesus would speak against evil, murder, hatred, and violence. He would not be silent and immobile.
Many sane voices are speaking above the drumbeat. They include Pope John Paul II, USCC President Bishop Gregory, Nelson Mandela, former President Jimmy Carter, mainline church leaders, the United Nations, many world leaders, clergy, religious and lay Catholics in our diocese and across our nation.
Bishop Gregory wrote these words to President Bush: "We conclude that, based on the facts that are known to us, that a pre-emptive, unilateral use of force is difficult to justify at this time." He also mentioned several "just war" questions that cannot be resolved in regard to this war: just cause, legitimate authority, proportionality, probability of success, and norms governing conduct during war.
What can be done to stop the drums? Individual and communal prayer, letters, phone calls, e-mails to present administration, to our legislators, and letters to the editor of local newspapers, participation in peace demonstrations and marches.
It is an opportune moment for your students to read stories of saints, peace activists, historical nonfiction, or historical fiction that speak of conscientious objectors and others who stood up for their beliefs. Discussions could take place that included the Gospel message, the seven core values of Catholic Social Teaching, and lessons from history.
How you conduct prayer services, historical analysis, or discussion will depend on the age and learning style of the students you instruct. For those teaching older youth information on draft registration and the possibility of being a conscientious objector could be provided. If the war goes ahead, the draft will be re-activated and the time to prepare a case for CO status will be only a few days. Go to email@example.com and http://www.objector.org for information.
Thank you for ministering so conscientiously to young people. May we let our lights shine brightly together to reflect the Light of the World and Prince of Peace!
Parish Outreach Coordinator
At the beginning of each school year we consider our goals and specific focus for the next nine months. Perhaps the first five verses of John’s Gospel image that for us at this time.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
We need to claim that last line today and share it as a lifeline for our students, family members, friends, and ourselves. In this time of darkness, it gives us hope and compels us to be loving, just, and persons of integrity, to be "children of the Light."
The "child of the Light" has a personal relationship with God that enables him or her to live justly and lovingly as Jesus did. I am sure encouraging and developing this in students is part of your school’s religious education curriculum.
Another important aspect of the Christian’s life is social, "love of neighbor." So much can be done to encourage young people to care for and respect their classmates, teachers, family members, neighbors, etc. It is the little daily things that make up most of life. The big things flow from habits practiced every day.
Role models are helpful to students. Besides their parents, teachers, friends, they are influenced by what they read. I know many of them study their namesake saints before the November 1st feast day. Good literature, lives of the saints, and "good news" stories are other resources. Two books that may assist you for older students are: Walk in the Light & Twenty-Three Tales by Leo Tolstoy ISBN 0-87486-967-6 (pbk.) reprinted 1998 by Plough Publishing House (800-521-8011) and Pilgrims and Seekers: Saints without Pedestals, ed. by Mary Ann Luke, OSB, Pax Christi USA, 1995 (814-453-4955). You can refer to our website "Peacemaker Profiles" for older students and "Educators’ Monthly Newsletter" April issue ("Reading It Right" book list) will assist you with stories for elementary school students.
May we all "be off to a good start," filled with hope, energized, empowered, and "in the Light!"
In her book, Proclaim Jubilee: A Spirituality for the Twenty-first Century, Maria Harris spoke of the power of images, even of a still photograph that "can capture a privileged moment and then make that moment accessible to millions." It is in that spirit that I share with you these images I observed as one of the 75,000 participants in the April 20th Peace March in Washington, D. C.
It was not difficult to find the location for the anti-war protest in our nation’s capital that Saturday. On the metro train protestors were "easy to spot" with their banners, signs, drums, etc. Once near the mall people were converging from all directions. Wearing our green and white Pax Christi shirts, we searched for others from that Catholic peace organization for quite a while before Richmond, VA and Raleigh, NC members found and claimed us.
We listened to speakers from every peace aligned group: a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim, a union labor spokesperson, Philip Berrigan, youth leaders, member of the Colombia Mobilization project, grandmothers, etc. Banners identifying group participants and signs with all kinds of slogans flew in the breeze or rested on the ground.
When the march began, people assembled peacefully and considerately and chanted slogans or sang peace songs or parodies. There were native North Americans, Colombian Latin Americans, Palestinian Arabs, Jews, persons of European ancestry, Filipinos, children, young adults, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, people in wheel chairs, some walking with canes, people of faith and some who claim no religion, environmentalists, and human rights activists.
As I walked I realized what a wonderful moment this was. Looking around I took photographs. I was touched by the presence of Muslim women, especially two women holding hands, the one was young and the other quite elderly marching together with the rest of us down the capitol streets. I wanted to say something to them, but I did not know what to say and so I said nothing. It seemed that being together was enough for now. It was a beginning.
Alongside the marchers were others waving the two finger peace sign. The most memorable was a young man whose sad and pained eyes caught mine. I thought he must have lost a loved one in a current war.
Another sidewalk still photo was a throng of nine and ten year old boys who had climbed to all levels of a huge equestrian stone statue and were waving Palestinian flags as they watched the procession pass by.
Further down at a corner on the sidewalk were young actors in costume. One on stilts and dressed as Uncle Sam pretended to spray a toxin on the others who represented poor Colombian farming families.
There was a very large drum on a rolling platform drawn by one man who walked backwards while six young women beat the drum. Its pulsations enlivened the marchers. Alongside, was a Palestinian man in robes and a bright red hat who smiled and played a string instrument resembling a mandolin. Next to him was a clarinetist who played songs like "This Is My Country" while a young Palestinian man hummed along.
I remember feeling so grateful for the freedom we have to protest here in the United States. How good it was to be with so many thousands of citizens speaking out against the killing and deaths of so many innocent people. How many more marches around the country will it take to change President Bush’s present "War on Terror" into "Collaboration for Social Justice and Peace?"
READING IT RIGHT
Jesus "did not say anything to them without using a parable." (Matt 13:34b). We know this from the great number of parables recorded in the four Gospels. Jesus definitely recognized the power of a good story! Literature is a wonderful way to teach our faith and the core values of Catholic Social Teaching.
Madonna Wojtaszek-Healy, Phd. has developed a program that teaches use of a "Catholic lens" when reading and discussing literature. Sponsored by the Peace and Social Justice Ministry Office Ms. Healy and Joyce Ruhaak have given the presentation to many school staffs. For each of the seven core values Joyce relates a real life story and Madonna reads a literary passage. Professor Healy also highlights the stages of moral development to help adults understand what is appropriate for a child at each age level. Our focus in these books is teaching foundational core value of Catholic Social Teaching,
The seminar is now available for use by parents, youth ministers, and religious educators. To schedule a presentation, please call our office at (815) 834-4028.
Here are sample book titles and discussion questions. Their focus is the foundational core value of Catholic Social Teaching: the life and dignity of the human person. Some suggested books for sharing with young children include classic Dr. Suess books, such as The Sneetches or Horton Hears a Who. These fables can be read to the whole family. Family discussion could center on these questions: Have you ever felt like a plain-belly Sneetch, when someone else treated has treated you or your group as if you were not as good as they are? Have you or your group ever acted like the star-bellied Sneetches? Whose side would Jesus be on?
Horton keeps saying, "A person’s a person, no matter how small." Do you know of anyone who is treated as if he or she was less than a person? Who is treating them this way? What could you do to make that person’s life better?
Such questions promote the belief that ALL human beings were created by God in God’s own image and likeness and that we are ALL redeemed by Jesus Christ. Jesus always took the side of the poor and vulnerable. When Jesus commanded us to love one another, it was a call to an inclusive, all-embracing love.
One important area of children’s lives is how they treat others, that is, how they affirm or detract from their human dignity. A significant number of students across the country have revealed a feeling of exclusion by their classmates. Many children report being "bullied" by someone in their school. Some students view difference as a reason to reject or ridicule peers.
Suggested books for reading by parents and children together include: Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco (Scholastic) and The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric(Random House) For children in grades 4 and 5 we recommend: Do Bananas Chew Gum? by Jamie Gilson (Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books) and The Night the Bells Rang by Natalie Kinsey-Warnock (Puffin Books). For middle-school children, two books stand out as stories about classroom outcasts: The Starplace by Vicki Grove (Puffin) and Reaching Dustin by Vicki Grove.
Questions for children: How do you think the victims of childhood cruelty feel? How would you like to be treated? What do you think that Jesus would do if he saw someone being picked on? What can be done to make the victim’s life better? How can a pre-teen’s family help that child make the right decisions to respect the dignity of all people?
Sample book titles for youth group book clubs: To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) and The Road to Memphis by Mildred Taylor.
Any good book can be analyzed in the same way: Is someone a victim? Who is victimizing that character? Are there any heroes who follow Christ’s command to take care of "the least among you"? If you were in the story, what could you do to make the victim’s life better?
May God’s blessings be with you and your children as they develop into mature Christians. Happy reading!
Since March is "Women’s History Month," I would like to share the following historical prose piece published in War Resisters League 2002 Peace Calendar entitled, "52 True Stories of Nonviolent Success." The article was first printed in "Nonviolent America: History Through the Eyes of Peace." Louise Hawley and James C. Juhnke edited the book.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the peaceful nonviolence movement could be as effective today and make the "War on Terror" unnecessary! May we be encouraged in our work to promote and practice social justice and peace.
Happy Holy Week and Easter! –Joyce Ruhaak
Please Note: Abolition of the Death Penalty Lobby Day in Springfield will be April 10, 2002 (not the 20th). Call me at (815) 834-4028 for details. Also, a few years ago our ministry office assembled a "Women’s History Month Bibliography." If you have additional suggestions, please advise us so we can publish an updated version.
Lent 2002 is nearly here. This year we could focus on the connection between the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and relieving the victims of injustice and violence in various parts of the world. Perhaps your religious education class or youth group could choose a specific group for whom to pray and fast. For example, if the group chosen was families in the Holy Land, students and teacher would pray for peace in that region. Also, the money saved by fasting could be sent to Catholic Relief Service to assist needy families in the Holy Land. In addition, older students could write letters of concern to our president, secretary of state, senators, and representatives.Isaiah 58 reminds us: "This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke: setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own."The severe suffering and violent deaths of thousands of human beings every day cry out for our response. We cannot separate our individual or communal prayer from the reality of the present-day world in which we live. Jesus still suffers in every victim of violence and injustice. As you know, Baptism and Confirmation call us to minister to those in need as Jesus did when he walked the earth two thousand years ago.If your class or youth group chooses prisoners as its Lenten focus, there are many ways in which they could advocate to end capital punishment. You can request resource materials on the issue from our ministry office, or go to one or more web sites: www.icadp.org, http://deathsentence2002.home.att.net/ , www.cacp.org . After investigating the topic students could contact state senators and representatives.Older students could attend Death Sentence 2002 the weekend of March 9 and 10 at De Paul University’s Chicago North Campus. The Joliet Diocese Peace and Social Justice Ministry is a sponsor of the event. On Saturday, March 9th Senator Russ Feingold, six of the exonerated men released from death row, members of Murder Victims Families for Reconciliation, Journalists from the Chicago Tribune, actor Mike Farrell, and others will speak. Sister Helen Prejean and Cardinal George will address those assembled before the closing interfaith service on Sunday, March 10th.On April 20, 2002 a delegation from our diocese will join members of the Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty International, and others for a lobby day in Springfield. Lobbyists will be promoting the Cunningham House Bill 576, calling for complete abolition of the death penalty, and also a second bill, sponsored by American Retarded Citizens, addressing abolition for retarded persons. You are warmly invited to join us. If you are interested or need more details, call me at (815) 834-4028.May Jesus direct our plans and actions so we truly live the Gospel message of peace and justice, and enjoy a productive and meaningful fast this lent!
Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poetic words are most welcome today as the earth begins another fallow season. Faith and hope call us to enthusiastic optimism amidst war, terrorism, and violence. "War can kill living people; it can destroy civilizations, can destroy its own works, but it cannot touch God’s." (Caryll Houselander)
If we really believe as Mary did long ago, that God exists, we would realize that we are now pregnant with the Christ-life growing within us…
laying hold of our soil with strong roots that thrust deeper and deeper, drawing down the blessed rain of mercy and the sun of Eternal Love through our darkness and heaviness and hardness, to irrigate and warm those roots. (Houselander, The Passion of the Infant Christ)
Like Mary, a child of fourteen or even younger when the angel appeared to her, we would trust God completely and say, "Be it done to me according to your word." (Luke 1: 38) Truly "for God all things are possible." (Matthew 19: 26)
This Love beckons us to gaze on God in quiet prayer, in the faces of our spouse, children, family, friends, students, peers, the poor, the elderly, the sick, and even those we dislike, and those we ignore. In Christ all are our brothers and sisters. In the presence of any of them we, like Merton, should see Jesus and want to bow or genuflect.
God shares with us power to transform the world and overcome evil. We can do that everyday in simple ways like treating each person with respect and compassion, in asking forgiveness when we have offended someone, in forgiving another when they have hurt us. Sometimes it means participating in "An Offering of Letters" (Bread for the World), joining a social justice or peace protest, writing a member of Congress, teaching social justice to your students. The possibilities seem limitless.
As religious educators we enable the Child of God to lead our students in their life journey so that they also may birth Jesus once again into our world. We have so much to celebrate! Let us rejoice, be glad, and give thanks!
Wishing you Christmas Blessings and God’s Peace, Joyce Ruhaak
God pours out grace "in good measure, packed together, shaken, and overflowing, poured into our laps." (Lk 6:38) Some of this grace we find in other people. The examples of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, countless martyrs and saints, and many men, women, and children alive today call us to "faith that moves mountains," sustaining hope in the midst of pain and adversity, and an all-inclusive love which forgives and befriends enemies. What "gems" of these holy ones can we use as mantras or words to ponder in our present situation? "Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you,"(Lk 6:27) and "pray for those who persecute you."(Mt 5: 44) "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." (John 14: 27) I am with you always until the end of the age." (Mt 28: 20) (Jesus)"Nonviolence is not a cover for cowardice, but it is the supreme virtue of the brave. True non-violence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness. By a long process of prayerful discipline I have ceased for over forty years to hate anybody… What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"(Gandhi) "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that…Love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force, so beautifully exemplified in the life of our Christ, is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security."(Martin Luther King, Jr.) "We have to have a deep patient compassion for the fears of men, for the fears and irrational mania of those who hate us or condemn us." Christ’s "place is with those who do not belong, who are rejected by power because they are regarded as weak, those who are discredited, who are denied the status of persons, who are tortured, bombed, and exterminated. With those from whom there is no room, Christ is present in the world. He is mysteriously present in those for whom there seems to be nothing but the world at its worst…It is in these that He hides Himself, for whom there is no room." (Merton)If you would like to share more of these gurus’ wisdom with your students and youth group members, you may obtain these pamphlets from Pax Christi for $2 each. Gandhi The Peacemaker (ed. Eknath Easwaran), Words of Peace: Selections from Martin Luther King, Jr. (ed. Mary Evelyn Jegen, SND), Thomas Merton’s Struggle With Peacemaking (James H. Forest) You may also request copies of "Prayer in Time of Terrorism" and "Hope in Time of Terrorism" Prayer Service. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.nonviolence.org/pcusa Fax: (814) 452-4784 Phone: (814) 453-4955.Peace, Shalom, Salaam, Joyce Ruhaak
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!" (Psalm 122: 6) This is the plea of the patriarchs and heads of churches in Jerusalem. They cry out for all to pray with their people for "peace with justice and reconciliation." (Independent Catholic News, August 10, 2001)
Even though the violence and bloodshed in the Holy Land keep escalating, there are signs of hope. Peacemakers, Israeli, Palestinian, and other nationalities are putting their own lives on the line working for an "alternative to the cycle of revenge and retaliation." (Sojourners Magazine, September/October, 2001).Many Palestinians and Israelis are threatened, beaten, and imprisoned for their nonviolent resistance to the current injustice and bloodshed. Peace groups include Rabbis for Human Rights, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Sabeel Ecumenical Center, House of Hope, Christian Peacemaker Teams (mainly Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers from the United States and Canada), and Jews United for a Just Peace (Junity). They all call for an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and an end to the violence, especially that directed towards civilians.Here is an example of the power of presence and solidarity the Christian Peacemakers Team members bring to conflict areas. A group of Palestinians on their way to a mosque for worship was confronted by Israeli soldiers. Falling on their knees, the Muslims refused to turn back. As the soldiers raised their guns to shoot, two young people from the Christian Peacemaker Team jumped in front of the Muslims. Spreading their arms in protection of the men, they implored, "Please, these are unarmed people, do not shoot them!" That action prevented the imminent gunfire. The two peacemakers were held in jail overnight and then released.Jesus was nonviolent and calls us to be peacemakers and care about others. Even though the children may not be able to bring about peace directly, they can pray that God call peacemakers forward who can bring about a just and lasting peace. You can let your pupils know how special their prayers are to God and remind them of the power of united prayer.Recently, Bishop Imesch wrote a letter to Catholic students about befriending their classmates and having concern for them. Every principal and parish director of religious education received an aid for a Nonviolence in Schools Liturgy. These resources enable you to challenge your students as Christians to be respectful of others and to be nonviolent peacemakers right at home and in school.Have a wonderful and peaceful year of education. May our prayers for a just peace be constant and unceasing!Shalom,