It has been a long seventy-two hours, of ups and downs, great points of clarity combined with numbing feelings concerning the events in Ottawa and Quebec these last days. My days have been filled with worship, prayer, leading Bible Study and providing ongoing pastoral care in our parish in Eastern Newfoundland.
Throughout this time there have been themes of justice, oppression, and hope entering my thoughts and prayers, from a local, national and global perspective.
I attended an event hosted by the city of St. John’s inviting a call for proposals concerning potential grants for Housing First Priorities as outlined in their overall affordable housing plan for the city. To my surprise, as I sat down, I found myself seated next to a neighbour who is a social worker at a local women’s shelter. We got caught up on our lives, and then I explored with her some of the needs that her clients are presented with: the proper addressing of issues of injustice, the need for peace and stability in their lives, and the challenges of power imbalances and rights for women working in the sex trade in Newfoundland and Labrador. These powerful notions brought to me images of the church responding with Kingdom perspectives of justice and peace to women that are abused, and those that suffer an imbalance of power due to human desire for sexual activity.
To me this echoes the words of Isaiah’s song for peace – the need for a world system to be transformed so that justice, respect and fruitful peace in community triumph over notions of self-satisfying desire, greed, and lust within power imbalances. The women that my neighbour provides care for do not have the same luxury of living within Kingdom principles in their context.
With all this thought and prayer I realized that my words and emotions were welling up with my desire to care for those that are vulnerable. I imagined these women as friends, family; daughters, sisters. I did not want their status to be forever constant. And yet, I confess that I have not lived their lives, nor tread their footsteps: whatever theological or pastoral evaluation of their situation I would offer, it is not rooted in walking with them.
Now, turn to the events of these last seventy-two hours. Beyond the need for peace in women’s lives at a shelter in St. John’s, there is a national crisis, grief and concern for injustice, terrorism, acts of war and the shattering of peace in our land. No one in this country is free from the concern that has arisen in Quebec and Ottawa, for the grief of families, of the Armed Forces, for a nation.
Thoughts and conjecture, anger and pain, suffering and shock abound as people make sense of tragedy and terrorism in our midst. Persons make comments about the threats of ISIS, of radical fundamentalism, of the freedom in our country that has the potential to produce situations like this, with great suffering.
Isaiah’s song of peace does not seem to equate with the actions that were used to stop individuals from killing more innocent lives. Isaiah’s song of peace also does not seem to equate with our country’s decision to bomb places in Syria and Iraq that house these ISIS militants.
How do we live a Kingdom life when faced with evil, harm, and destruction? How do we support the indiscriminate killing of persons on foreign soil without diplomacy? How do we turn the other cheek when persons walk up to shoot or run down innocent persons?
Somehow in my prayer this coming week I must sit and ponder this. I must empty my heart so God can fill the gaps and cracks of my pain. I must strive to better understand the intricacies of human power imbalances in the world. Somehow reacting, killing, and silencing is not the answer.