What a month July 2006 has been! It would be hard to find anyone who watches the evening news or reads the newspaper that has not been moved by the happenings in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Israel, and Iraq.
What a month July 2006 has been! It would be hard to find anyone who watches the evening news or reads the newspaper that has not been moved by the happenings in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Israel, and Iraq. The Franciscan Reflection this month is not centered on a Franciscan saint, but instead, due to the escalating conflict in the world, this month our words will be short and dedicated to what we can do to achieve peace. In the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Reconciliation II, the Preface speaks to God: .In the midst of conflict and division, we know it is you who turns out minds to thoughts of peace. Your Spirit changes our hearts: enemies begin to speak to one another, those who were estranged join hands in friendship, and nations seek the way of peace together.. Each evening as I sit with one of our older friars watching the nightly news, these words echo in my heart. Seeing the ravages of violence, images of children being burned and dying, the elderly forced out of their homes, bombings of apartment buildings, I know that only the Spirit of God is capable of turning the hearts of the violent.
It has become common and even expected that whenever a tragedy hits, a war begun, some injustice coming to the public eye, that people of good will publish a .Statement. calling on the government for action, for people to rise up and to express moral outrage. July 2006 has seen the publications of statements calling for Israel to stop the bombing of Iraq, to end the occupation of the Gaza Strip, for an immediate cease-fire on both sides. Statements serve a very important purpose. They can give a moral authority to a cause and provide a rallying cry to stop unjust actions. At times, I think we have had enough statements. I think we need to turn our minds to the Spirit of God. In April 2002, at a time of another crisis in the Holy Land, Fr. Giacomo Bini, OFM (the former Minister General of the Order Friars Minor) called .all friars Minor of the World, contemplative Franciscans and all lay Franciscans to add a time of personal prayer each day for peace. (Vatican Press Office, April 5, 2002). I remember not long after that visiting a Poor Clare Monastery and the sisters lighting a candle at the beginning of their Evening Prayer and spending a few minutes of silence prayer for peace in the Middle East.
Some who read this reflection feel sympathy and compassion to the people of Israel. The protection of their country is paramount. Some who read this say that the people of Lebanon are the innocent bystanders of Israeli aggression. Perhaps most do not realize that the war is continuing in the Gaza Strip and in Iraq. I will not even attempt to give an account of the numbers who have died because no doubt the figures will be out-of-date by the time you read this. This reflection is not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about what we can do to help bring about peace and end the senseless killing.
There are two courses of action I suggest. One is to write to President Bush and to the Prime Minister of Israel (Emud Olmert) and ask that they do all that is within their power to stop the hostilities and to provide access to humanitarian aide for the people of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Write to the Prime Minister of Israel, c/o Embassy of Israel, 3514 International Dr. N.W., Washington DC 20008. Tell him you are a Franciscan and that you request that all efforts to provide humanitarian aid be provided for the people of Lebanon, including safe passage for those who are attempting to escape the violence. Ask him to enter into serious negotiations in order that all parties can agree to a cease-fire at the earliest possible opportunity. Second, consider taking the advice of Brother Giacomo and take some time each day and pray for peace. Ask you fraternity minister to devote a minute or two of silence at the start of your next fraternity meeting so that the gathered community can pray for peace.
Prayer for Peace (2003)
O one God of all peoples and nations,
You created the earth and the cosmos,
in their beauty and also in their frailty.
All cultures and religions are on their way to
the origin of all that has been created.
You want all to be for one another not a threat,
but a blessing.
Our one world should be, by your will,
a peaceful home for all.
You chose the Orient to make known to all
your many names.
Abraham is a father in faith for Jews, Muslims,
He listened to your call
in the region between the Euphrates and Tigris,
the present day Iraq.
In a special way, you promised life and future to the old and new People of Israel.
As Christian men and women, we thank you
for our Lord and Brother Jesus Christ.
He is our Peace.
He came to knock down walls and to give to
all, without distinction,
life and a future.
We know ourselves to be in communion with
the Churches of the Orient.
They witness to the Gospel of Jesus,
to the liberating power of his non-violence
and to his Resurrection.
We also pray to you
in unity with all our brothers and sisters of other religions, especially those who have their
origin in the Middle East.
In all of them you instilled the hunger and thirst
for justice and a deep desire for peace.
All are in mourning for the victims of hatred
All are called to collaborate in the construction
of a new world.
We, therefore, beseech you:
Have mercy on all the victims and on all the
Put an end to the spiral of violence and hatred.
Let all of us, especially those who bear
be ever more convinced that the way to peace
is not that of war and violence,
but of building peace through non-violence and
Let your peace flow like a river through all our
Lord, give us strength and endurance
to pull down the mountains of
to fill in the trenches of hatred
and to level the paths towards a more just and a
more peaceful world order.
Let the arms of destruction be laid down soon,
and let the melody of peace and reconciliation
resound throughout your entire creation.
O one God with many names,
make us all instruments of your peace.