Thursday, 12 May 2011

Walking on water to journey to peace ... the IEPC begins

This stunning piece of textile art in patchwork and quilting is called "Journey to Peace" and is by Deborah Stockdale. It is the central work commissioned for the Stitching Peace exhibtion which will come to Jamaica as part of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation - the exhibition has itself been on a journey, it was displayed in Geneva for a month earlier in the year. Roberta Bacic who curated the exhibition comes from Chile but lives in Northern Ireland. Many of the pieces are packed in Ireland and waiting to come to Kingston as I write this ...

I arrived in Jamaica just after midnight local time last night. Members of the local committee were waiting to meet us at the airport - it was wonderful when feeling so tired to be welcomed and taken to our accommodation. What was interesting though was that even in this brief meeting at a midnight hour with all of us tired, we were already getting into the theme of "just peace". One of the people arriving at the same time as me was a young person from Syria. As we waited we exchanged perhaps rather superficial comments about the situation in Syria with her. Her response was interesting, "much of what is said is propaganda". Given the late hour and our need for sleep after 24 hours of travelling there wasn't time to have much follow up conversation. I'll admit to wishing I could be a fly on the wall at the youth programme where I am sure that discussion and many others will continue.
Once I was compos mentis enough for some cogent thought again this morning after a few hours sleep, I thought back to our conversation last night. It struck me that "just peace" is definitely not about easy slogans or one-size fits all solutions. It's about having good quality and nuanced information about situations (both of conflict and of reconciliation), but it is also in some way trying to come to a judgement about those situation. Not a judgement for all time but a judgement in the here and now. Syria could be a good case in point, but so are many other countries and situaitons.
To be for justice and for peace will often mean knowing not to take sides in a simplisitc way but knowing rather how to stand up for the (gospel) values of peace and justice as such. Sometimes though to be for justice and peace will mean taking sides, and being prepared to be vilified for taking that stance. Being for a just peace is not something static or set in stone it is very much about being on a journey and sometimes it will mean daring to put our feet on what is not solid ground. Daring to get it wrong.
In Deborah's Journey to Peace this sense of moving towards something is clear but what you can't see so clearly from this image is that there are people in the ecumenical boat, people also walking in the labyrinth of peace which is the IEPC logo of locked hands. There are however also people who have stepped out of the boat and are walking on the water. They really are daring to believe that the journey to just peace will carry them on. Pilgrims of hope borne forwards by hope and belief in water and the word... a beautiful baptismal image.
Here in Jamaica we are surrounded by water, all of us coming here have to cross it in some way or another. As we arrive and as we leave Kingston will we dare to go on walking on water into the future so as to build a just peace?