Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday prayers for peace

Today is the anniversary of the end of the First World War, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. In Canada, we call it Remembrance Day. When I was growing up, it was all about reciting "In Flanders Fields," watching old soldiers march or wheel past with medals decorating their chests, and imagining life in the trenches long before my generation of Canadians was born. But now, it's about so much more, with many peacekeeping missions in the last 40 years and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. All present generations are affected by these wars, even though our country hasn't felt the full brunt of armed conflict within its boundaries for hundreds of years. Knowing people involved in or touched by war affects us all.

One evening two summers ago, when I pulled up to a parking booth, the attendant gave me my ticket with the comment, "be sure to enjoy your life today." I thanked her, and as there was no one else around, asked the reason behind her comment. Her eyes filled, she thanked me for asking, and she told me about her son, who had been killed in Afghanistan. The tears poured down her cheeks as she shared about Sgt. George Miok, a junior high school teacher who had volunteered for the reserves, and how she was heartbroken when he never returned. It turns out that our school Vice Principal knew George, and was on staff at St. Cecilia's with him, and when this letter arrived at the school. It makes George almost as real to me as his mom's tears did. And now there are so many stories like hers.

Today, I'm also thinking in particular about my friends from Syria, whose country is embroiled in a terrible civil war that is being fed by outsiders and nations who often don't even know the people who are affected by their illegal arms shipments and political sanctions. Today, around the world, many words will be spoken about peace as an ideal for which we strive. But peace has to be more than an ideal in Syria and other places like it for the sake of those who live there, and for their families far away. Peace needs to be a reality. As Jean Vanier says on page 34 of his book, Community and Growth,
The ideal doesn't exist. The personal equilibrium and the harmony people dream of come only after years and years of struggle, and then only as flashes of grace and peace. Peace is the fruit of love and service to others. I'd like to tell the people in communities, "Stop looking for peace. Give yourselves where you are. Stop looking at yourselves, look instead at your brothers and sisters in need. Ask how you can better love your brothers and sisters. Then you will find peace."
He's right, especially on this Remembrance Day. There are far more losers than winners in any war. But if everyone on this planet thought of everyone as a brother or sister, and gave to those in need, everyone would win.

Tonight, our Taize Prayer service at St. Luke's Anglican Church will be for peace. Dona la pace, Signore. Give us peace, O God, we who trust in you. And make us servants of your peace. Amen.

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