I have enemies, I have people I don't like, people who have done harm to me ... there are people out there who don't like me, people who if I am really honest I do not wish well. Of course this is not an easy thing for a minister of the word and sacrament to admit to, but I am not always a very nice person, I keep trying to be better, sometimes I even manage it.
Today I read this story about a woman blinded by acid thrown in her face in a violent and desperately spiteful act. Now she gets to pour acid into the eyes of her attacker - literally an eye for an eye.
Today I was also interviewed for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation here in Kingston. The Jamaica Council of Churhces is celebrating its 70th anniversary by hosting the world church here in for the IEPC. On Thursday evening they are holding a special event at which Father Michael Lapsley will speak. Lapsley had his hands blown off, was partially blinded and deafened by a letter bomb sent to him in South Africa. He seeks not revenge but forgiveness.
"The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind." said Martin Luther King jr
So how to we hold justice and peace together? An individual has a right to pursue justice, but does justice have to be retribution? How do we combat evil - by becoming evil ourselves or by seeking ways forwards that create win-win situations, restorative justice for ourselves and for others. Does it help a violently blinded person to become the perpetrator of that same act towards another, will vengeance help her to "move on"?
Think of the public expressions of joy when Bin Laden was killed ...
As I approach the opening of the Peace Convocation, I am thinking deeply of my own imperfections as a peace maker, how my own desire for justice sometimes holds me back from stepping forwards in peace. On the radio today I was asked why the World Council of Churches wanted to have this meeting about peace and rather than starting with the history of the Decade to Overcome Violence I simply said "it's because we want to follow the example of Jesus of Nazareth in building peace". Afterwards I wondered about that - do I as a Christian hide behind a sort of moral veneer of non-violence, am I able to practise what I preach. And of course the answer is not always, not always at all. Sometimes peace building means living with the absolute horrible mess of life and trying to celebrate goodness and joy despite everything. Some time ago we read in chapel this meditation by John Lederach on the dynamic relationship between mercy, truth, justice and peace, it is beautifully and powerfully written and comes from real experience of the pain of building peace.
As I continue to meditate and pray about this and about my own lacks in this area all too often I say this prayer:
Lord God preserve me from the hatred of my enemies. Teach me to pray for them and for myself. “Guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79) Amen.
And here is the full quote from Martin Luther King:
Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.