Pursuing Peace - Offering Hope and Healing

Yesterday my friend David Porter, Canon for Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral and the Archbishop of Canterbury's advisor on reconciliation, retweeted the quote from Bonhoeffer daily:
"From now on there can be no more wars of faith. The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him.”
As I read this I was just starting the chapter in Jim Wallis' recent book "On God's Side" entitled "Surprising Our Enemies", which begins with another, more sizeable Bonhoeffer quote taken from "The Cost of Discipleship" where he is exploring the Beatitudes and specifically Jesus' blessing of the peacemakers. The entire section reads:
"The followers of Jesus have been called to peace. When he called them they found their peace, for he is their peace. But now they are told that they must not only have peace but make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. His kingdom is one of peace, and the mutual greeting of his flock is a greeting of peace. His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce all self- assertion, and quietly suffer in the face of hatred and wrong. In so doing they overcome evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate. But nowhere will that peace be more manifest than where they meet the wicked in peace and are ready to suffer at their hands. The peacemakers will carry the cross with their Lord, for it was on the cross that peace was made. Now that they are partners in Christ’s work of reconciliation, they are called the sons of God as he is the Son of God."
Today people will gather at West Kirk Presbyterian on the Shankill Road in Belfast meet together to remember the events of 20 years ago when an IRA bomb destroyed Frizzell's fish shop and killed 10 people, including Thomas Begley, one of the two bombers. It also set in train a number of reprisal attacks, including the Greysteel "Trick or Treat" massacre, resulting in the deaths of at least 14 other people. It might have been many more had it not been for the actions of the RUC who mounted extensive security operations around catholic chapels.
It was said that Gerry Adams carrying Thomas Begley's coffin was necessary for him to be able to lead the republican community into the subsequent ceasefires and peace process, and similar things have been said about the recent involvement of Gerry Kelly and other senior Sinn Fein politicians in the erection of a memorial to Begley... This seems to argue that the hurt that victims experience due to such events is a "price worth paying" for the sake of peace... However, real peace, which is about so much more than the absence of conflict, should in this, and every other situation, take account of the pain of victims, of all sides, seeking to bring healing and hope.
Bonhoeffer argues that central to this is the cross... It is through Christ carrying the cross on his shoulders that real peace came to earth, not Adams carrying a coffin... Christ's voluntary acceptance of all the hatred, fear and guilt in this world on his own shoulders was the means of our reconciliation with God and ultimately with each other.
As such we who follow him must go the distance... carry the cross rather than a cudgel, or gun, or bomb, or words that perpetuate pain.
The pursuit of the path of peace and a commitment to peace-making in the face of violence and wickedness is not easy. The desire for vengeance is a powerful force, and the instillation of hatred and fear into the hearts and minds of those affected, is almost irresistible.
But 20 years on, in the face of heightened tensions and unnecessary provocation, the call to God's people to seek peace and pursue it is even more important if we are going to avoid the pain of history repeating itself...

Shalom

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