The Hypocenter as Peacemaking
A Reflection on International Day of Peace, Sept. 21
On September 21, 2010, the International Day of Peace will be observed at the Church Center for the United Nation’s Chapel with an event titled “The Hypocenter as Peacemaking.”
The event, co-sponsored by the Committee of Religious Nongovernmental Organizations at the United Nations and the Office of the Chaplain along with many partners, was initially conceived to be a peacemaking event in itself.
Working with coalition partners Global Call to Action Against Poverty, Feminist Task Force, the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation, peace activists from Iraq, Kyrgystan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Palestine and other countries were interviewed by young New York City artists. The artists in turn were tasked with bringing tangible voices into the chapel, working alongside voices of the peace activists.
Bringing this event to fruition presented many challenges, the first being a technology divide. Most of our conversations were via phone, e-mail and Skype. Such reliable forms of communication for us in New York City were unreliable for many from conflict zones. This is a symptom of deep injustice, and it creates a deep divide. Persons were dropped from phones, were unable to have a call go through, and were unable to use Skype or e-mail consistently.
A second and common challenge was busyness; our work schedules divided us over and over and over. We could not find a time that all of us could be on the phone and together to do this important collaborative work that would make for peace.
A third challenge was combining models of communication. In such a diverse group of thinkers and doers and activists and artists from many different cultural meaning contexts, the conversation quickly erupted over the differences, the most important perspectives, and who held the power. It seemed at first that only one model would win the day. The dialogue behind the dialogue was “either my way or your way but we can’t have both.” Our models of dialogue, difference, justice, and power are infected with this model. What would happen if we really believed that every process could be truly antiracist, non-ethnocentric, diverse and multicultural?
We realized before this work and even through this work that peacemaking is hard work. We’ve got to humble ourselves and check ourselves and be about peace as our first treasure, letting all else fall by the wayside. If we want to make peace, we need to prioritize our entire way of life, of working, and stand up against the powerful forces around us and in us that divide us and bring violence. We needed to have a new conversation.
United Methodist Women staff member Jennifer McCallum had just been to Hiroshima as part of a Women’s Division trip and was tremendously moved by the monuments to the tragic Hiroshima bombing. The explosion that killed the city, mutilated its people, and created such deep and terrifying harm was caused by nuclear fission. Nuclear fission is the splitting apart of the nucleus of an atom. The release of energy from this splitting causes the explosion. The nuclear fission at Hiroshima was destructive. Technological, economic, social and economic fission is destructive.
However, a nuclear bomb can also be exploded by fusion. Fusion occurs when the nuclei of multiple atoms are pulled together. What if we instead fuse together and determine that all of our nuclei are the center of a radiating peace movement that would change the ways we operate? What if the call to peace during an International Day of Peace event brought us together and had us commit anew, with new connections, to antiracist, multicultural, nonviolent peacemaking? What if we saw the hypocenter—the very center of a nuclear explosion—as peacemaking?
“The Hypocenter as Peacemaking” on September 21, 2010, looks to achieve these goals, or at least begin the necessary steps toward achieving a fusion to create a peace explosion. Artists, activists, and people of faith have come together, despite the many challenges, to share their work and commitments and to reflect the struggle for life.
Kathleen Stone is the chaplain for the Church Center for the United Nations.