Sunday, April 27, 2014

Who Is Missing at the Table?

“Nations do not lead people to peace: rather people lead nations to peace.”

Though many of us think of peace as the absence of violence, I believe such an image to be incomplete.  In addition to an absence of violence, my image of peace includes a place where each of us holds our relationship with one another as sacred, regardless of race, gender, or economic status.  I believe in a world where each of us recognizes that as a human family, we are interdependent.  We recognize that we are to treat our neighbor as another self.  In other words, we must honor our neighbor including (or especially) the marginalized in our society.  We are called to treat each other with justice, to respect the dignity of every human being.  We are responsible to meet the needs of our sisters and brothers so that everyone would have equal opportunity to achieve her or his potential.
In my work at BEACON and BARN, I have encountered some of the most marginalized in our society.  It is heartbreaking to work with adults who have never being in school.  Not only does the person cannot read, she cannot even copy the alphabet.  Our aim at BEACON is to each English to our learners, which would enable them to acquire a better job.  But there is a need to teach literacy in the person’s native language.  Unfortunately, there are no funds to help such people.  Their native country had failed them, making it extremely hard for them to participate fully in society.
Yet, it is not only Latin American countries and African countries that struggle with illiteracy.  In my work at BARN, the scene of a young fifth and sixth grader who is unable to read is becoming too familiar.  I have been taught that education is one of the most valuable gifts.  But, too often I have encountered those who have giving up: “Those children are with us for just a short period of time, then they will move on.  Let them do what they want… It is up to them to figure out what they desire in life…” In other words, their problem is not my problem. I have to say that what is more heartbreaking than seeing adults and children struggle with reading is witnessing those who have already giving up; those who places the homeless and the immigrants as the ‘other,’ not worth spending time with; those who rely on their discomfort and are unable to see that the ‘other’ is another self.
In the words of Shane Clairborne and Chris Haw, I pray that “God gives us the strength to storm the gates of hell and tear down the walls we have created between us and those whose suffering would disrupt our comfort.  May we become familiar with the suffering of the poor outside of our gates, know their names and taste the salt in their tears.  Then when the ones ‘God has rescued,’ the Lazarus of our world- the baby refugees, [the immigrants] and the homeless outcasts- are seated next to God, we can say, ‘We are with them’.

Peace and Blessed Easter Season,