Encouragement for the Journey 4 July 2013

An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand

Encouragement for the Journey 4 July 2013

Encouragement for the Journey Pentecost (resized)

Greetings fellow traveller, 

Today is our Kids N All Sunday with the theme of PEACE. I thought I would offer you a longer Encouragement for the Journey for you to take away and reflect upon for the coming week.

Peace is a fascinating concept; it embodies many different aspects, and is present within all religions. The root of the word peace is present in the

Hebrew word Shalom and the Arabic word Salaam and embrace the ideas of:

 • completeness, wholeness

• safety, welfare, health, prosperity

• quiet, tranquillity, harmony

• contentment, peace,

• friendship

Each of those words contain much more, than we could ever hope or imagine, for all are embraced within the word peace.

I recall a night in 1967 when as a young police officer I watched a convoy of troops travelling through Liverpool to the ferry en- route to Northern Ireland. My colleague and I offered opinions, on how long they might be there, little did we know it would be many years, with the loss of over 3000 thousand lives mostly civilians. It took over forty years for the British Army to finally pull out of Northern Ireland. Even today, there is still sectarian violence upon the streets of Derry and Belfast. Yet, in the midst of what seems an unsolvable problem, new hope and life is present and peace is growing.

A glimpse of this growing peace was evident in a remarkable piece of television when the BBC screened a meeting between a former Northern Ireland Protestant paramilitary and the widow and brother of a man he was convicted of murdering.

These ‘Facing the Truth’ meetings were chaired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. During the filming, Tutu said:

“We had some extraordinary moments in the week or so that we were here, where it was like something divine had intervened, and it was exhausting but eminently exhilarating. I think human beings are incredible …” 

During these ‘Facing the Truth’ meetings, there was an opportunity for the victims and / or families to confront either the perpetrator or someone associated with the organization that had sanctioned, planned and accomplished the killing or injury. It was a time to hear each other’s stories, the effect that one person’s actions had on another, to understand and offer a response for ones actions that caused so much pain and suffering in the lives of another human being. It also gave an opportunity for coming to terms with the past in a way that is morally respectful and advances the cause of reconciliation and peace.

It may be a cliché, but our world continues to evolve at an ever increasing rate of change. We find ourselves living in very divergent communities from say 20 years ago, with varieties of multi faith and ethnicities present. The social and religious implications for this divergent community will continue to challenge community and religious leaders for the foreseeable future. We may think the streets of Northern Ireland are a far cry from the streets of the North Shore of Auckland. Yet, we are not immune from human behaviour motivated by prejudice and fear fuelled by misunderstanding.

This then raises the question how to do we respond with a Christian gospel which calls us to be peacemakers, with reconciliation, truth and justice at its heart, to those who are very different to us in their faith and ethnicity? A way is through increased understanding of each other’s faith and cultural practice.

What I wrote a few years ago in our Newsletter is still relevant today:

‘I personally believe, unless we are intentional about understanding our neighbours who practice their faith differently to us, we are unconsciously erecting walls that divide us. Instead we need to be bridge builders of understanding, that seek to span our differences over which we may walk to meet each other and join hands in reconciliation and compassion.’ 

What more can be said, may we seek to practice what we believe. I leave you with this quote:

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein.

Meanwhile Shalom, Salaam, Peace

Alf