Changing Behaviour Patterns through Peace Building among Youth was the title of a recent symposium on peer mediation held at the Southern Academy of the Performing Arts (SAPA) as highlighted in the Catholic News two weeks ago. The event is of immense relevance to this weekend’s Solemnity of Christ the King.
This kingship has had a very schizophrenic history. On one hand, Christ was the Infant King of Peace; on the other, the King of Armies, and hence a purveyor of violence. Thankfully, the Church has now traded violence for peacemaking.
The message from popes St John Paul II to Francis is that war can never be called ‘just’. The centuries’ old ‘just war theory’ is slowly being abandoned in favour of peacemaking because the cost of war is too huge – death of the innocent, especially children; destruction of cities, towns and villages; the obliteration of monumental symbols; feelings of revenge that are repressed only to be reprised years later; untold damage to the environment, not to mention the billions needed to rebuild.
From the crusades to the Reformation we know more than anybody else about the ugliness of war. We were warned about it two millennia ago by a poor Mediterranean apocalyptic prophet: “Put your sword back in its scabbard, for those who live by the sword die by the sword,” but we did not listen. Until now.
War must not be our only concern; we must also confront lower levels of violence like bullying. Sr Julie Peters, feature speaker at that symposium, left us with a chilling sentence: “What the ocean is to waves trauma is to violence” – as the oceans generate the waves so too trauma generates violence.
There are Eucharistic connotations here: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is also the Lamb who takes away trauma from the world. This weekend’s feast summons us to throw away weapons and mentalities of warfare of whatever type.
We worship a Shepherd-Lamb who made peace by the blood of his cross; we who follow the Shepherd must do the same – take away trauma from the lives of people, especially so many of our hateful, angry young men.
While the Church is at the forefront of this struggle it cannot do it alone. We must join hands with Spiritual Baptists, Hindus, Muslims, Orisha, Bahai, and men and women of good will (believers or non-believers) in this ‘eucharistic’ struggle of removing trauma from the land.
We must listen to the stories of the traumatised, trace the evolution of trauma, and bring in the necessary experts to help people move their lives along and not be stuck in the violence generated by trauma.
Bishop Clyde Harvey has always spoken about journeying with people. We need evangelists to go out and “listen”, “discern” and “accompany” (Pope Francis). The Pope also says in Joy of the Gospel: “An evangelising community “consists mainly of patience and disregard for the constraints of time” (No 24).
A less violent society comes about when we choose to exhibit the patience shepherds have for their lambs – parents for children, teachers for students, employers for employees, MPs for their constituents. Therein lies much hope for the future.