Our world and our society are in a time of turmoil. Violence links itself to our daily choices and our neighborhoods, and it tears at the fabric of our world. The Earth melts at an increasing rate, while the hearts and minds of our youth turn cold from violence of drugs and abuse.
Extremist voices betray generations of faith’s story in ways that distort and denigrate the “golden rule.” ISIS and Boko Haram, military police, climate change, spousal abuse, refugee camps and drug overdose are words today that bring fear, confused contradiction and ambiguous denial. Youth are gunned down in our streets, and partners are slugged into unconsciousness. Our peace of mind, peace of home, community, body, soul, Earth and globe, all are in jeopardy of losing to injustice and violence.
My opening paragraph is harsh — negative, damning and without hope.
Perhaps so, yet it is my honest reaction to all I see and question about our society. Why do we do such things to one another and to Earth? What is the answer to a culture of choosing violence or disregard over reconciliation, justice and peace? Do I participate in societal violence through my own life choices? I search and struggle with these questions daily.
For people of faith or moral conscience, or people predisposed to simply caring, our answers, our places of hope, lie within — within our hearts, minds, spirits and souls, within our ability to live and love and hope for something greater and with meaning.
Even within our society, there is that yearning. Not always successful, yet found at its core, institutions such as the United Nations work for this hope. In 1981, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution declaring an International Day of Peace.
In 2001, the General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring Sept. 21 each year as International Day of Peace. The resolution intends for the entire world to pay attention and observe a day of peace and nonviolence.
This community is invited to pay attention this Sept. 21, to take a silent moment, a few hours, perhaps a full day, to consider questions of violence and answers of peace. You alone know what violence haunts your spirit. Perhaps this symbolic day can lead to specific answers toward peace.
Concrete activities to assist this understanding will occur from noon to 5 p.m. on that day, as you are invited to join a Day of Prayer for Peace at the Allen Street Gates in downtown State College. Individuals, organizations, faith communities, the Penn State community and Centre County authorities are invited to give witness to the concerns of our communities and lift in our own way prayers for peace and healing.
As part of this gathering, at 1 p.m., those gathered, and people across our region, are invited to pause for a minute of silent prayer for peace. In that moment, harsh realities of violence might be softened by prayers of a caring people.
From 12:30 until 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, you can participate in an Interfaith Peace and Friendship picnic at Sunset Park. Communities that gather together in friendship and understanding are communities that grow toward peace and reconciliation.
A reflection grounded in reality. A hope filled with potential for healing. Will you consider your own reflections, your own place of hope, and step out in concern for others?