One of the misconceptions about peacemakers is that they are passive, but making change and building common ground takes effort. Sometimes what looks like doing nothing – listening or keeping calm or standing your ground – is actually revolutionary. Often around this time of year, you will see Martin Luther King Jr.’s quotations about peace everywhere you look. I am glad that he is celebrated for his nonviolent efforts, but it is important not to forget the struggle that came alongside those efforts.
“True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance,” King wrote, is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love.” In early 2020, I had the opportunity to visit The King Center in Atlanta. I sat in Ebenezer Baptist Church and listened to King’s recorded words where he originally spoke them. I closed my eyes and imagined the crowd of African-Americans sitting in the pews listening to his words decades before. I imagined their hearts wrestling with his ideas about peaceful resistance, wondering if it was worth the risk of being beaten or imprisoned, or if it would make any difference.
My closest experience to peaceful protest happened during my year of service with the Good Shepherd Volunteers in New York City. One of the tenets of our program was social justice. Alongside a community mate, I participated in a sit-in protesting Iraqi sanctions. Though all we had to do was quietly sit in a big room with other protesters, the uncertainty and fear about being arrested were still present. But the fear subdued when we heard from nuns who had been in Iraq and told personal stories about how the sanctions were impacting innocent people.
That experience taught me that showing up, even quietly, is action and can make a difference. For the rest of the year, I continued to learn about the efforts of nuns working at the U.N. to advocate for humanitarian causes around the world. I have seen how their work, though often under the radar, makes a significant change.
In that vein, the new year calls me to reaffirm my writing intentions. Over the last few months, I spent time reflecting on the purpose of this blog. I participated in a workshop called Finding Your Message and Reader through Hope*Writers, and at the end of six weeks, we were charged with answering the question, “What do you write about?” My response:
Have you ever felt unsure about engaging with someone with a different background or beliefs? My unique culture and experiences taught me how to be a peacemaker and build common ground. In my blog, I share personal reflections and inspiring references about culture and faith to support and encourage you to seek common ground, have authentic conversations, and build meaningful relationships with all kinds of people.
What do you think? Please let me know if you have ideas, critiques, or resources around this idea and how to carry it forth. Also, check out the next post on a peacemaker’s book club. I look forward to seeking common ground with you in 2022.
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