A FEW years ago, my family and I visited Ground Zero in New York City. There was a long line of visitors.
While gazing at the rocks and concrete where the World Trade Center once stood, something caught my attention.
I saw, at a corner, the remains of a steel structure. It was in the form of a cross, a rugged cross (A cross which had undergone the baptism of fire). It reminded me of the old hymn, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross.” It is a sign of faith and hope in the midst of suffering.
It is very possible for some people to create their own enemies for various reasons, such as to unite their tribes or to advance their agenda. (This is what I learned in a course entitled Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Drew University, NJ.) They make their own so-called “heroes” or “martyrs”. They routinely go through a ritual to label the other party. They gossip, slander and demonise their self-created enemies to ensure that the label sticks. They stereotype other people as “…” or “…” Now, for them, it is a common knowledge and attitude that it is “us versus them”. The battle line is drawn.
They may consider other human civilizations as waste, which must therefore be extracted with force and separated. Soon, they treat other people with contempt. In the name of survival, the self-created straw-man (enemy) must be demolished. This is sometimes done without mercy by violent acts. They are suspicious of other people and other cultures. Their ignorance leads to fear for we fear the unknown. Ignorance and fear become the breeding ground for hatred.
The lesson from history is that humankind needs to be tolerant. We need to learn to accept diversity and seek to understand one another. We need to realise, regardless of our race or culture or ethnicity, that we all share a common humanity. For we are all created in the image of God and we are enriched by our diversity.
Christians are called to be peacemakers. Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.” (Matt.5:9). Therefore, as a Faith Community, let us build bridges to reach out and not erect walls to imprison ourselves and to exclude others. Let us continue to be an inclusive and hospitable community.
Together, we will reflect the values of the Kingdom of God. Together, we will witness to the world the reality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Together as a Church Family, we will deepen our spirituality. Together, we will foster understanding, affirmation and a positive attitude in response to God’s purpose for our lives. Together, we think outside the box of man-made restrictions. Together, we are enriched by the faith experience in our pilgrimage.
Indeed, “in Christ there is no East or West … but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth” (UMH 548). There is so much beauty in diversity and inclusiveness in God’s Kingdom that there is no need to be parochial or provincial.
We can be peacemakers because we have peace with God through what Christ has done for us. St Paul says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:1).
As God’s chosen people, we choose faith over fear, understanding over prejudices, humility over pride, love over anger, risk over status-quo, compassionate truth over hyperbolic spin, possibility over impossibility, hope over gloom, kin-dom (kinship) building over empire building and community over individualism. We choose the way of the Lord.
God owns all of us. He reaches out to us, embraces us, forgives us and gives us an important work to do. God is gracious to us and thus we ought to be gracious to one another.
Recently, Ahmed Khatib, a 12-year old Palestinian boy was accidentally killed by the Israeli troops. He had a toy gun, which the soldiers thought was a rifle. His family decided to donate one of his kidneys to an Israeli boy. They said, “It doesn’t matter whether the recipient was a Jew or an Arab.” (TODAY, Nov 8, 2005, Page 14).
Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with us. We are God’s ambassadors for Peace in this world.