Each week in my church, the worship leader invites us into a time when we acknowledge “the many ways that we are connected in this life, affirming that what touches the life of one of us affects us all.”
Now is a time on our planet when we must also affirm our shared humanity and acknowledge how our fates are tied together.
When I was at the Kigali Genocide Memorial and Museum in Rwanda in July, the message came through clearly that the easiest way to sow violence and justify war is to convince people that they are different from someone else and that they, therefore, deserve different fates.
The genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda, in part, stems from the ethnic identities that the colonialist system imposed on the people in the area now known as Rwanda. These created identities and colonialist messages reinforcing the supposed differences between people set the stage for neighbors to kill neighbors and whole families to be deemed worthy of killing. A similar scenario also led to the mass killings of Tutsis in Burundi in 1993.
Even though those genocides were now thirty years ago, SIA Grant Partners are still working to address the ongoing and generational trauma from that horrendous time. Forum pour la Mémorie Vigilante (FMV) is hosting workshops on truth-telling, community dialogue, reconciliation, and trauma healing. In a blog post about the workshops, Pierre Claver Niyonkuru writes that the participants – refugees who experienced violence in Burundi – came to believe that “compassion and recognition of the suffering of others will lead us to forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Empathy, recognizing the humanity and feelings of others, and acknowledging the ways we are all connected will lead us to peace. Retaliation and inflicting pain on someone who has hurt you can feel like a good way to settle the score, but all it does is create more harm in more bodies, families, and societies.
Let us be God's Light
As an organization that values justice and peace and is dedicated to helping people reach their God-given potential, we are constantly working to create more understanding and fewer divisions, especially as we work with people with many different cultures, traditions, practices, and life experiences.
During our SIA Board Meetings with members from across North America and Eastern Africa, we take time to check in with one another and share about our lives. We celebrate each person’s uniqueness and also find what connects us. We have discussed what it feels like to be an outsider and what it feels like when someone welcomes you. Once we become known to each other, it’s harder to ignore how the suffering in one affects us all.
As people of faith, as the Spirit in Action network, we have a duty to live peace in our own lives and be role models and advocates for peace everywhere. “Politicians, rebels, and all those who use firearms against others have interests that are completely different from ours as humanitarians,” Ferdinand from FMV texted me recently.
Years ago, SIA Founder Del Anderson wrote, “Let us re-affirm today that we shall become God’s Light of sharing, caring partners, blessing all those that God brings into our path with examples of Light.” (Read the full letter from Del.)
Today, we have the opportunity and obligation to reaffirm that call again to be people of Light, to see our shared humanity, and to fight for each person’s right to live in peace.