Wage Peace for Mother’s Day
President Barack Obama’s announcement on Sunday that a U.S. Navy Seal team had killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was the start of a roller coaster of emotion: relief, fear, pride, excitement and calls for us to remember. It has also sparked ongoing reflection on the use of violent means. We do know from millennia of experience that violence begets violence. Jubliation on one shore contrasts with anger and calls for revenge on another.
Could this be a time for all persons of goodwill to undertake the hard work of waging peace? It would require us to get out of our national, religious, racial and cultural ghettos and to build relationships that would be strong enough to sustain nonviolent ways of resolving the conflicts that will inevitably arise. It would take remembering our experiences and remembering the experience of the would-be enemy. The losses on 9/11 are grievous and immense. The losses in Afghanistan are grievous and immense. These will continue to be part of the truth about the ongoing conflict that we call the “war on terror.”
But, just like our own internal conflict is called the Civil War in one region and the War Between the States in another, this current conflict is named and described differently by the combatants. Until we realize this, we will always be in the position of a participant in the conflict and not the position of the narrator, who has the responsibility to shape the story.
Do we want a different outcome? If so, we must begin to do the hard work of listening, building relationships and waging peace.
It has always been so.
On this Mother’s Day weekend, let us remember that Mother’s Day has not always been about cards and flowers. In 1870, in the dark days after the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe issued a call to mothers to come together to grieve their losses due to war and violence and then counsel together about how to disarm a violence-crazed world. Similarly, women from North Carolina, led by Rachel Holcomb, Miriam Levering, and Carolyn Lindsay, urged the establishment of what is now the Church Center for the United Nations following World War II. Women’s Division predecessor organization the Woman’s Division of Christian Service of the Board of Missions financed the building of the center, a building the Women’s Division now owns. The work was greatly impacted by Methodist laywoman Evelyn Riley Nicholson’s 1924 book Way to a Warless World, which stated:
“Do we want peace? Just now we do! A few years hence, when we shall feel our pain less acutely, when we shall have forgotten the futility, the insanity, the barbarity of the late, calamitous conflict, we shall be less insistent about world peace. A new generation, having less to suffer and less to forget, may find itself settling into the old channels and drawn into the maelstrom of diplomatic intrigues and the internecine slaughter!”
United Methodist Women, women of faith, all persons of goodwill, we have the opportunity to change the story. It will be hard work. The question is, what would it take for us to wage peace?
Harriett Jane Olson is Women’s Division deputy general secretary.