we appreciate keeping up with sean and rebecca gladding from mercy street. sean wrote this reflection for a weekly newsletter.
It seems that all things British made the front page of the Chronicle last week. What with the Queen’s first visit to the US in quite some time and Prime Minister Tony Blair announcing his resignation, I felt a twinge of homesickness most days. I remember sitting in a friend’s living room in Lubbock ten years ago watching the electoral votes come in that swept Blair’s “New Labour” into power – a new day was dawning in the U.K. But a decade later, much of the shine of that new day has worn off, and no doubt his legacy will be questioned by historians for years to come.
However, another story from the U.K. grabbed my attention more than either the Queen’s or the Prime Minister’s. This story could be found at the back of the Chronicle, in the International section. It was accompanied by a photograph I thought I would never see. A simple photograph, two men shaking hands. But two men who represent the opposing sides in a decades long, community dividing conflict. Ian Paisley of the Ulster Unionists, and Martin McGuinness of the Provisional I.R.A. – sworn enemies, now sharing power in co-governing Northern Ireland. Maybe that photograph will prove to be Tony Blair’s legacy.
Space does not allow me to go into the history of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, that period beginning in the ‘70s. The religious divide – disenfranchised Catholic Republicans fighting pro-British Protestant ‘loyalists’ – literally pitted neighbour against neighbour. The violence and terrorism committed by both sides took so many lives, and not just “over there.” I remember bomb scares in my hometown as a young lad. My dad’s brother – my uncle Clive – was in an armored car destroyed by an IRA-planted landmine that killed everyone else inside, but which he survived, blown out of the turret. And this tragic scenario is being played out all over the globe: Sunni’s and Shi’a’s in Iraq; Israeli’s and Palestinians in the Middle East; Christians and Muslims in the Balkans; Darfur, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Timor…the list goes on and on.
That’s why that photo grabbed me. Because if Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness can find a way to sit down at the table and work together (largely due to Tony Blair’s tireless work), then maybe, just maybe, it’s possible that peace might be made in these other places. It is the tragedy of humanity that so much of the conflict in the world is fueled by religion – in the words of one of my favourite punk bands from the 80s, “worshiping the devil in the name of God.” Those who claim to be ‘children of God’ waging war, bombing, torturing, murdering others – all in the name of God, claiming God’s blessing. Jesus’ words cut to the heart of that lie: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Peacemakers. Not just violence avoiders. But those who work for peace. Whether quietly in their own family, or neighbourhood, or at the international level. God’s desire is for all of us to know shalom, God’s peace – God’s wholeness. And that peace is most often made one decision at a time – one choice at a time. In a world torn apart by tribal, ethnic, national and family violence, may you and I be those who make peace – may we become children of God.
See you on the Street this Saturday,
Until then – keep it weird!