While everyone became acquainted with the other women at their table and settled into their seats, a beautiful music video began to play. The video, called Prayer of the Mothers by Yael Deckelbaum, an award-winning Israeli/Canadian singer-songwriter and activist, depicted Israeli and Palestinian women joining together in a call for peace amidst violence in the region. (See video below)
Guest speaker of the evening and co-founder of Living Waters Meditation Centre at The Junction, Sr Carmel Moore rsj, invited women to reflect upon peace. She shared her experience of a 1986 visit to central Manila in the Philippines, during the tense period following the assassination of Benigno Aquino in 1983. It was a precarious time of crisis – electoral fraud, mutiny and of scenes of military troops and tanks rolling through the streets. Catholic Archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, had called upon all the people to fill the military-dominated areas in an act of peaceful protest. Sr Carmel explained how the term ‘people power’ was born through the actions of these individuals – hundreds of thousands of them – to block loyalist tanks in the face of great danger and threat to their own safety. The influence of ‘people power’ was far-reaching – challenging military governments and dictatorships world-wide, including the infamous events at Tiananmen Square, where an unarmed Chinese boy stood, head bowed in front of a moving tank of the Chinese army. These peaceful acts have – and continue to have – tremendous, long-lasting effects.
Sr Carmel said, “Peace is a fully human loving of all other humans; it is forgiving, non-resentful, altruistic, serene yet strong in times of suffering; it never repays evil for evil; it attracts, inspires and wins disputes without power over other people.
“To reach peace in our hearts we go beyond our ego and reach wells of peace in our true self. It’s our journey of faith to our deepest self, to resting in the arms of God.”
Sr Carmel spoke of Cistercian monk and prolific writer, Thomas Merton, who had an experience on the corner of Fourth and Walnut Streets in Louisville – a sudden and deep feeling of love towards people passing by, of seeing the deep beauty in each of them, the deep beauty being something he later wrote of as ‘the Immortal Diamond' (read here), the God sparks at our centres. “We can journey towards peace and peace can come to us – ultimately, peace is buried in our hearts, the Immortal diamond.”
Concluding her presentation, Sr Carmel recited the following words from Psalm 131 and invited everyone to give a sign of peace around the tables. ‘Shalom’, ‘Salam Alaikum’ and ‘Peace be with you’.
O Lord, my heart is not proud
Nor my eyes haughty.
Nor do I involve myself in great matters
Or in things difficult for me.
Instead, I am content and at peace.
As a child lies quietly in its mother’s arms
So my heart is quiet within me.
Israel, trust in the Lord now and forever.