What a send-off!As I prepare to return to Costa Rica on May 19, an ecumenical Peace Conference in Minneapolis has focused and energized me, reminding me once again that my humble task of writing Sunday school materials is part of a much greater effort on the part of the people of God to bring Shalom to our communities and our world.How exciting to be with Christians who are willing to commit their lives, their time, their resources so that we can live in harmony between persons and nations, and that peace can begin with us, with a more gentle, joyous, tolerant and forgiving spirit.
The keynote speaker, Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, spoke of how violence has become such a dominating factor in US society that it is perceived to be the solution to every problem, and is the first rather than the last option tried.Sobering statistics were quoted: in 2003 the US alone will spend more on military than the combined spending of the next 22 nations ($396 billion).Half of all weapons sold in the world come from the United States. In the US there were 15,000 handgun deaths last year and a woman is beaten every 15 seconds in domestic violence.
Yet every dollar spent on weapons could be used to bring life rather than death: to provide food, clothing, shelter, clean water, health care, education, opportunity and hope to the three billion people who live on less than $2 a day, and to the one in five US children who live in poverty.
As Christians we have a responsibility to clarify our priorities and work for a world in which all people can live with dignity and the basic necessities of life.Jesus calls us to be peacemakers, to model a different style of life from the cyle of violence that dominates our world.
One of the workshops I attended identified the roots of violence in abusive, neglectful, and authoritarian families.The speaker emphasized the impact of an appropriate balance of control and affection in bringing up children to create self-confident, caring, non-violent, productive adults.He noted that the repressed rage that provokes crime is only intensified by punishment, particularly when it is perceived to be unjust.
Another workshop pinpointed the foundation of all non-violence as worship.As we look upon the God of life, an awe and celebration of all God has created makes it unthinkable to harm another human being.Worship must be the foundation of all we do, of our very identity as God's children.
Costa Rica is one of the few countries in the world that does not have anarmy. It prides itself on being a country of peace.Yet the society is torn by violence and the church is called to proclaim and model the peace of God's new community.I have special opportunities working in the field of education.At the Conference, I purchased a number of books on creating peaceful classrooms, building harmonious and respectful relationships, dealing with bullies, conflict management, etc. that will be extremely useful for teacher-training workshops for Sunday school teachers in Costa Rica.Also, I picked up some materials that could be part of a curriculum focusing on peace.
Blessing to you all as we work together in God's service.