The inhumane and unbelievable violence that has struck the island Nation of Sri Lanka is beyond comprehension. The minority Christian population of Sri Lanka has long been the object of violence and persecution. It seems feeble to say our thoughts and prayers are with those who suffered loss of life and limb. While we stand in solidarity with all those who are suffering from this continuous assault, we realize that more needs to be done. Once again, the time has come to break the stranglehold of violence and hate. Responding to this dreadful situation with more violence, only seems to justify the use of violence whenever disputes or misunderstandings arise. Hate must not be given legitimacy.
The Easter Sunday and on-going attacks invite us to consider one possible Christian response to such useless murder and mayhem. We offer to you this reflection from the viewpoint of a Christian peace-maker:
Easter is the celebration of the Risen Jesus who was unjustly crucified by the hostile State of Rome for standing up for the oppressed and marginalized. In the course of that cruel execution, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.” Christians refuse to be defined by violence. As the powerful seek revenge, Christians seek to understand and forgive. We do so not as victims or enablers of violence. We seek not to imitate what we abhor.
Christians are ultimately followers of Jesus in the practicalities of their lives. We see suffering and violence as opportunities to become like the One we call “Savior of the World.” The Savior commanded us to love our enemies and do good to those who would hurt us. As such, Christians hold themselves to a standard of living exemplified by Jesus himself. By exemplifying what it means to be human, Christians challenge their enemies to be humane.
Christians are always tempted to adhere to the “standards of this World” by compromising what they believe for the sake of safety and security. In the last analysis, Christians proclaim the “Kingdom of God” on Earth. Jesus prayed, “May God’s Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.” Christians refuse to be defined by nationalisms, politics, governments, and those who think institutions and ways of believing are more important than human rights and human persons.
Like their Lord, Christians live in the freedom of the children of God refusing to be conquered by those who would kill them. In such horrific moments as now, Christians everywhere join with their Sisters and Brothers in Sri Lanka remembering the example of Jesus who lovingly declared, “No one takes my life, I freely give it.”
We Christians now stand humbly with the Risen Lord as we reach out to all other human persons who seek justice, mercy, understanding, and peace. Realizing that we are all the Children of God, we say to those who hate, be healed of the necessity to harm others. We say to those who harbor resentment, come to us and we will listen to you. We say to those who would hurt and kill us, we will not cease to love you. We will become, even in the killing fields, what we want the World to be.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
with the Board of Directors
The Interfaith Peace Project