Most of the articles I have written are about our personal faith. By that I mean the faith we draw on to sustain us to meet the challenges in our own lives and those close to us. We need this personal faith. Yet life is larger than our private sorrows and joys. What about the injustices, hardships and losses that occur elsewhere? We may lament these things and then forget them quickly because they are too painful and they seem to have nothing to do with us. I am thinking of the events that have happened in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas. What would it be like for a black man to grow up feeling that the police, who are supposed to protect him, seem more like his enemies? What would it be like for a police officer to risk his life every day of his/her working life, never knowing who is carrying a gun?
When we hear about injustice and violence happening “elsewhere,” how do we incorporate this into our own faith life? In the past, I used to feel an initial sense of outrage and sadness and then detach from it. I am finding it more difficult to do this now. Mass media have made us all more aware of what is happening everywhere as it is happening. We even saw a video of the shooting of a black man by a white police officer witnessed by his fiancée and her little girl who were in the car.
Sometimes we Canadians can feel smug that we don’t have the same problems as our friends in the U.S. As I read about racism in Canada, I know that this complacency is not justified. Racism is a systemic plague that has infested our whole society and can only be eradicated by all of us taking responsibility. Behind the hatred of racism lies fear which causes us to see enemies in people of a different colour. The only real enemy is in us. It is only as we confront our fears and our own darkness, the enemy within ourselves, that we can find the love within ourselves to drive out our fears.
Where is God in the horror and carnage of these events? At first I could see nothing but the insanity of these killings. Then I began to see God in the hearts of all those gathered to mourn both the deaths of the two young black men and those five police officers shot in Dallas. Then I saw God in the little four year old girl saying to her grief-stricken mother, “Don’t worry, Mommy. I am here with you.” I also think God is in the chaos which causes more people to be aware that this must stop.
Gradually my horror and sadness turned to compassion and I saw this compassion in others, even in our shared sense of helplessness. This world can use more compassion even in the midst of such violence. There are many of us praying right now. I do not underestimate the power of our collective prayers to make a difference. I pray for the victims, the shooters, the families, people of all colour, the protesters, the police, the bereaved ones, the angry ones and finally each one of us that we may discover the Love within ourselves, for only Love can overcome fear and hate. If these events seem far away, let us remember the famous poem by John Donne. “No man is an island, entire of itself. Each man’s death diminishes me. For I am involved in mankind. Therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.”
May we walk in Love and solidarity with those who suffer!