By Canon Chris Palmer
On 11 September 2001, I arrived at the home of two parishioners to give them Holy Communion. I had visited this home many times before, and had every expectation that I would be with them for 40 minutes or so, give communion, have a cup of tea, and go on my way.
But when I arrived at their home, they were watching the news that a plane had struck the Twin Towers in New York. Whilst we watched together, a second plane struck – and it was clear that this was no terrible accident, but a terrorist attack on Western Civilisation.
That event has had repercussions down to today, not least in Afghanistan. The invasion of Afghanistan was a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, and the trauma of the American withdrawal and the Taliban’s conquest of that country in recent weeks flows directly from that day. Add to this instability in the Middle East, many displaced people and refugees around our world, and the grief and loss of thousands of families – and we can see just how far reaching this terror attack has been.
All this makes integrating these events into our living, praying, and relating very messy. We talk about forgiveness, but this is hard when other people are the victims and when perpetrators show no signs of repentance. Is it ours to forgive? We seek to preach Christ’s message of peace, but this also is hard, when all parties so readily resort to weaponry.
I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s words about an earlier conflict:
The leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means.
King challenges us to live and choose peace even when it is inconvenient to our purposes. It is still a messy choice. But it is a way of living as people of the kingdom now – rather than merely expecting and hoping for God to solve the problems of hatred and violence in the future and without our lived commitment to live as people of the peace for which we pray.
This prayer comes from the Book of Common Prayer of The Episcopal Church of the United States.
in whose perfect kingdom
no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness,
no strength known but the strength of love:
So mightily spread abroad your spirit,
that all peoples may be gathered
under the banner of the Prince of Peace,
as children of one creator;
to whom be dominion and glory, now and for ever.
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