Saturday, 11 October 2008

Sow life, and kill death with life

“Because you can’t kill death with death
Sow life
And kill death with life.”

Dennis Smith, a 56-year-old lay mission worker in Guatemala for the Presbyterian Church (USA), quoted these words of Guatemalan poet Julia Esquivel in his acceptance speech after being elected president of the World Association for Christian Communication during its congress in Cape Town.

In his speech, he recalled how he had once been a translator for a Mayan pastor and a delegation of theological seminaries from North and Central America visiting Guatemala after the 1996 peace accords that ended a 36-year civil war.

I noted to myself that the pastor did not trot out his credentials of suffering. I knew he had lost close relatives. I knew he had witnessed monstrous acts.

The pastor and I talked later. I asked him why he had chosen not to tell his own story. Such memories, he told me, should not be violated. To do so can trivialize the victims, can cheapen their ongoing presence as they accompany us on life’s journey. We talked about living in a time of great violence.

We agreed that in these circumstances, there are no good guys. Within each of us exists the capacity to do monstrous acts. That is who we are as human beings. To celebrate violence only lessens us, no matter what the justification. But victimhood also lessens us. To perpetrate violence breaks something inside us. Always. There are no exceptions.

So here we are, lessened: victims, witnesses, perpetrators. After so much brutality, our very humanity hangs by a thread. God’s restoring grace is our only hope.
So how do we deal with continued violence and injustice? Do we just step aside and let it roll unchecked? No. The struggle to build the world imagined by God must continue.

But we must know that the struggle will consume us. In our brokenness we will become even more broken. Holy Spirit, spirit of wholeness – we are broken. We are capable of breaking others.

And quoting Esquivel's words above, he concluded:

This is the story we share: the breath of the Spirit is in our midst; her presence will not be denied. Her's is the story of the slow, sure, tender triumph of life and justice and hope in all of Creation.

WACC was formally established in 1968, and now has members in 120 countries. It says its key concerns are, "media diversity, equal and affordable access to communication and knowledge, media and gender justice, and the relationship between communication and power".

The full text is at stranzdocs