TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Peace

The following TUESDAYS WITH TERESA article is from the week of 11 December. Please disregard the date listed.

Luke 2:14 records the song of the angels to the shepherds:

Peace on earth, good will to all

I have no doubt that this is what all humans seek and long for. And so as we prepare for God’s incarnation with us at Christmas, I was struck through the week by an article written in the Newcastle Herald by Damon Cronshaw titled – Keeping the peace in a conflicted world, on Friday 7 December.

It was written about the UN Peace Summit of Emerging Leaders, held in Bangkok, and a speech given by Rahila Haidary, at which the Newcastle-based history teacher Matt Schultz attended.

I quote parts of the article:

Australians can advocate for global peace in their own country through combating “the evils of racism and discrimination”.

Matt Schultz, said sustainable peace required “rooting out direct, structural and cultural violence, which can include racism or discrimination within a society”….

Mr Schultz said the summit had given him a deeper understanding of the idea that “peace is not just the absence of direct violence”.

“Peace is a process by which the roots of conflict are addressed and non-violent means for resolving conflict are discovered,” said Mr Schultz, who spoke to the Newcastle Herald shortly after returning home.

“I am eternally optimistic and truly believe peace is possible.

“It is critically important that we instill ideas, disposition and skills in young people to help them to become peace-builders.”

Mr Schultz named Rahila Haidary as one of the summit’s speakers who particularly inspired him. 

Ms Haidary was an Afghan refugee who escaped the Taliban. She’s now an Australian citizen.

“As a six-year-old, she had to dress up like a boy to attend school,” Mr Schultz said.

When the Taliban found out, they threatened to kill her. Her family fled to Pakistan.

“Her father was a boat person who was taken to Christmas Island, but then processed and invited to Australia with his family on a humanitarian visa,” he said.

“She spoke with joy and hope. Her asylum journey is a heartbreaking story.”

He said the racism and discrimination she had faced from some members of the Australian community, particularly far-right nationalist groups, was disgusting.

“This angered me and inspired me, as we really need to combat the evils of racism and discrimination within our own society,” he said.

“While we haven’t experienced much direct violence within our nation, we certainly do have some deeply embedded structural and cultural violence in existence, like racism and discrimination, that needs to be challenged and combated.”

“As Rahila says, as human beings we must respect other human beings, no matter their identity, skin colour, gender or race.”

Her advice was to be “practical and think about the small impact you can make within your community”.

Mr Schultz said this inspired him that he can make a difference as a peace advocate in his role as a high-school teacher at St Philip’s Christian College at Waratah.

As a humanities teacher, Mr Schultz aims to help the cause by “teaching my students the values of civil society, dialogue, respect and mutual understanding”.

He believes the key to peace-building is education through schools, universities, community groups, journalism and family values.

“So much of what I teach is focused on the causes and impacts of conflict and violence,” he said. 

When students leave his classroom, he wants them to feel inspired to believe that “peace is a real possibility and that they can play a part in it”.

I have written many times about nonviolence, peace and justice and I could not let this article go by without bringing it to your attention, especially during the season of Advent.

Luke reminded us in our weekend Gospel (Luke 21:25-28, 34-36) that the word of God came to John in the desert. We experience many deserts in our own lives and this gospel reminds us to look out for those places as opportunities to experience the closeness of God to us, to prepare a way for the Lord. The following words, written by Mary M. McGlone, were used in our St Benedict’s bulletin on the weekend:

To prepare the way of the Lord today, we must straighten out the tortured paths that truncate our sisters’ and brothers’ hopes as they flee for their lives, seeking a safe haven. We are called to straighten out twisted communications, even for our adversaries.

To prepare the way of the Lord today, we need to muster the courage necessary to enter the valleys of depression and desperation that trap our brothers and sisters in loneliness and fear. In our personal relationships, we are called to build bridges across the breaches that have separated us from family or friends, to forget old wounds and bend low enough to say “I am sorry.”

There is a lot of geography to cover if we wish to prepare the way of the Lord. But it is all possible because God is already working on it.

It feels as though we are living in desert times and Christmas serves to remind me that God is always coming and we are always waiting.

I found the following words in Richard Rhor’s Daily Meditations on the Universal Christ – Growing in Christ, on Friday 7 December to be helpful.

Collectively, we’re moving toward the Omega point; but every time you and I hate, fear, compete, attack, judge, separate—thus avoiding the necessary letting go—we are resisting the full flow of Love, the energy which is driving the universe forward. The “Three Persons” of the Trinity—the template for all of reality (see Genesis 1:26-27)—can only pour themselves out because they have agreed to let go, and they can only receive because they have made space for the other. Self-emptying and infilling in equal measure is the only sustainable meaning of Love, growth, and Life Itself.

He then ends with the following meditation, written in 1918, by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, “The Priest,” Writings in Time of War, tr. René Hague (Harper & Row: 1968), 216:

Since, by virtue of my consent, I shall have become a living particle of the Body of Christ, all that affects me, must in the end, help on the growth of the total Christ. Christ will flood into and over me, me and my cosmos.

……. May my acceptance be ever more complete, more comprehensive, more intense!

May my being, in its self-offering to you, become ever more open and more transparent to your influence!

And may I thus feel your activity coming ever closer, your presence growing ever more intense, everywhere around me.

And then another reflection about seeking God from Quaker faith and practice: Advices and Queries:

Do you try to set aside times of quiet for openness to the Holy Spirit? All of us need to find a way into silence which allows us to deepen our awareness of the divine and to find the inward source of our strength. Seek to know an inward stillness, even amid the activities of daily life. Do you encourage in yourself and in others a habit of dependence on God's guidance for each day? Hold yourself and others in the Light, knowing that all are cherished by God 

I hope my readings and sharing for the past week place you in a good advent space as we prepare spiritually for God’s coming to us each day, to the manger in our soul, to the place of giving birth and reception.

Continued Advent blessings.

 

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is the Vice Chancellor Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.