VIEW FROM THE PEW
It was a week with a couple of encounters with road rage of the tail-gating, one-finger salute, scared that it might escalate kind.
It was a month of vacation in a mainland city where 24 homicides in one month matched the record set there 25 years ago.
It was a time when televised images of children playing on a merry-go-round amid rubble in Syria was shown as a sign that another cease-fire effort may take hold but it brought tears to the eyes.
It was shaping up as a doom and gloom theme for a column.
But then in the email was a missive from a small but stalwart slice of our community that I think of as “the peace people.” The members of an array of churches and community organizations convene and realign their ranks depending on a timely message or prevailing mission at different times, be it environment protection, or embracing people under attack such as refugees, homeless and misunderstood religious believers or taking a stand on a sometimes unpopular national or local community issue.
This week Hawaii’s contingent of peace people are joining like-minded folk around the world to affirm, celebrate, attempt to inspire the apathetic masses about non-violence as a way of life.
The timing is linked to the International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, set by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981. In 2001 the U.N. invited all nations and people to observe the day with a cessation of whatever hostilities were plaguing their neighborhood of the globe.
Honestly, the idea hasn’t really spread like wildfire. Name a country, democracy or tyranny that is turning missiles to plowshares, can you?
Actually, name a parish near you where “Let There be Peace on Earth” is being sung this week, can you?!
Rush hour drivers in Manoa may have been mystified at the rally of people Tuesday afternoon at University Avenue and Dole Street — no candidates’ signs visible. It was a peace vigil sponsored by the Honolulu Friends Meeting, aka Quakers, and the Hawaii Peace and Justice coalition. A Peace Day Interfaith Celebration was held at the Honpa Hongwanji Mission Sept. 16.
Events were also planned throughout the week on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.
If you read this edition soon enough, there’s a Thursday, Sept. 22, night celebration that could interest Catholics. The 7 p.m. event at the Newman Center, 1941 East-West Road, will feature “Remembering Daniel Berrigan — Priest, Poet, Peacemaker and Prophet.” The Jesuit priest died April 30 at 94. He and his brother, also a priest, were arrested for their actions protesting the Vietnam War and he continued to fight into his 80s against America’s role in other wars, and the development of weapons.
Hah. When I wrote that last paragraph, it originally came out as an event that Catholics “would be comfortable” attending since it’s at a Catholic venue.
But “comfortable” was not an effect that Berrigan, author of more than 50 books, had on complacent Americans or the Catholic Church bureaucracy.
His writings are widely quoted and no doubt will be, as this week of peace observances continues. His admirers consider him a prophet for insights such as:
“One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible.”
“The arms race is worse than it ever was, the dumping of creation down a military rat hole is worse than it ever was, the wars across the earth are worse than they ever were.”
“No principle is worth the sacrifice of a single human being.”
Berrigan’s words bring to mind those of another prophet likely to be quoted around the world this week. It was Mahatma Gandhi who said “Non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.” The Newman Center event was not your last chance to mingle with the peace people.
Tomorrow, Sept. 24, the University of Hawaii Urban Garden Center at 955 Kamehameha Highway (behind Home Depot) in Pearl City will be the setting of a Peace Day Hawaii 2016 celebration. The event from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. will include entertainment, educational exhibits, talks and refreshments.
Also on Saturday, a group of University of Hawaii students will affirm “The Power of Nonviolence” at the Queen Liliuokalani statue. They have titled the 3 p.m. gathering “Queen Liliuokalani International Day of Peace” to honor her commitment to nonviolence. It’s a commitment honored often in churches and at events with the singing of “Ke Aloha O Ka Haku” better known as “The Queen’s Prayer.” Her poetic Hawaiian words, written while she was under house arrest after the monarchy was overthrown, was a poignant message of her faith, and a call for forgiveness and reconciliation. In translation:
“Your loving mercy
Is as high as heaven
And your truth
I live in sorrow
You are my light
Your glory, my support.
Behold not with malevolence
The sins of man
And so, O Lord
Protect us beneath your wings
And let peace be our portion
Now and forever more.
As is my habit, I searched the liturgy for this week to see if the Scriptures pulled out for these dates might be serendipitous to the peace theme. Sept. 21, not so much.
Aha, the first reading for Monday, Sept. 19, fits the bill just fine. It’s from the book of Proverbs.
“Do not plot evil against your neighbors, when they live at peace with you. Do not contend with someone without cause, with one who has done you no harm. Do not envy the violent and choose none of their ways. To the Lord, the devious are an abomination but the upright are close to him.”