Waging Peace with Prayer and Action
Throughout the year 2011–2012, United Methodist Women is working on the journey of engaging in reconciliation. During the summer months of Schools of Christian Mission until International Day of Peace on September 21, 2011, you are invited to participate in Prayers and Actions for Peace as an expression of reconciliation. Submit a prayer for peace and find suggestions for action at UMWOnline.
United Methodist Women has a long history of working for peace and taking stands during critical times. Following World War II, United Methodist Women predecessors from North Carolina urged the establishment of what is now the Church Center for the United Nations to be a witness of peace. In recent years, this has been more focused in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. For example:
- A Prayers for Peace Campaign was launched at the start of the Iraq War in 2003.
- The Congressional Foreign Affairs Committee received our many letters and calls of concern about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2004.
- Both a prayer vigil during a Women’s Division board meeting and participation in a march that called for peace in the Middle East and an end the occupation of Palestine took place in 2007.
- Media monitoring around peace was conducted during September 2008 and will happen again this September.
The work of waging peace goes on. Now is another critical time in the wake of Osama Bin Laden’s killing.
Prayer can transform when we sincerely give ourselves to prayer and begin to look for ways to bring about the solutions to the needs we share with God. Prayer is not the power, God is the power, but prayer moves God, it moves the Spirit of God within us to respond. When the disciples, faced with the multitude of hungry people who had come to hear Jesus speak asked Jesus to send them away to buy food, Jesus responded by telling them, “You give them something to eat.” All they could find was five loaves and two fish. “What is that among so many?” they asked. But they gave what they found to Jesus. Jesus prayed, and in the distribution more than 5,000 were fed. Jesus was reminding them that they had the power to redistribute, they had the power to meet the need, they had the power to respond.
Prayers for Peace is the same. We pray prayers. We write prayers. But what do we do about them? How do we take the sincere concerns we have for peace in our world today and make peace a reality? How do we do this hard work of reconciliation rather than revenge? How do we withstand the urge to retaliate and look for ways to make positive, long-lasting change? And where do we start?
Our sincerest prayers for peace will be actions of forgiveness, restorative justice and reconciliation. We talk about peacemaking, and those who do it know it is hard work. It is easier to fight. That is why this year’s mission study, The Journey: Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice by Stephanie Hixon and Thomas Porter, is really about wrestling with reconciliation in broad social relationships. It requires deep understanding, commitment to respect and relationship, and great love.
In this light, today you are invited to share in the work of both prayers and peace. Write a prayer for peace and post it online at the Women, Peace & Security page on UMWOnline where it can be shared—with your neighbor, on a social network, in an exhibit, through your local paper, with the president, over the radio and other places you make connections.
Then, do something! The following are a list of suggestions for taking action that push us closer to the deep, genuine love and respect that are necessary for the work of reconciliation and peace. The commitment to this is emboldened, strengthened and sustained by prayer.
Suggestions for Action
- Invite members to share “spiritual space” with someone of a different faith tradition or perspective on peace, such as non-Christian religious groups like Muslims, Baha’i or Hindu. It will mean entering a new place with an open mind to learning more about an “other.”
- Organize a public witness, a prayer vigil in a public place or a short march in your community that embraces people working together to end violence or racism. Join with others who may be doing similar events around immigration or poverty or the environment. Build networks of groups who work together, despite differences, to make the world a better place.
- Recognizing that terrorism is rooted in economic injustice, desperation, fear, etc., make your prayer for peace by refusing to be caught up in news reporting or conversations that demonize any group because of the actions of a few. Reject demonizing any group because of race, religion, culture, language, country, or ethnicity. Speak out against this wherever you have influence. Consider writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper or conference, church or United Methodist Women newsletter.
- Notice whose voices are being left out of the public discourse, whether at church or school or in the media or in political debate. Make the effort to let those voices be heard. Instead of being the “voice for the voiceless,” seek opportunities to invite and insist that the “voiceless” speak for themselves. There is nothing more powerful than a person’s own story. If necessary, give up your own voice for the voice less heard.
- Take part in media monitoring this September 12–14 to see how media cover conflicts and if any attributions are made to the religion of the actors in these conflicts and see whether these attributions are pertinent, accurate, and credible.
- Contact newspapers and other media in your area and ask them to cover positive stories of interfaith relations also in media.
- The current budget being proposed in the U.S. Congress dedicates more than 50 percent of the nation’s budget to the Pentagon. Consider what it would mean to put that percentage toward public education, health care and other efforts to promote the common good. Contact your senators and representatives to let them know how you feel about the budget. Monitor your state’s budget percentages as well to see how the money is spent and make your voice heard in local offices. Attend city council or county meetings where your community’s budget is presented so you can be sure that it reflects value for those who need help.
- Encourage your church to be a place of accompaniment and welcome. Make it a place where the public can gather around issues of concern. Provide a radical welcome to those who are marginalized so their voices are heard. Plan to make your church or United Methodist Women group a bilingual one if another language group attends. If you offer English as a second language classes, also offer Spanish or French or Korean as a second language for English speakers so that all nationalities can share languages as well as food and customs.
For more information about Prayers and Action for Peace, contact the Women’s Division Office of Christian Social Action at SLee@unitedmethodistwomen.org or call 212-682-3633.