Last semester I taught World history to a group of high school students. When we were studying the holocaust I asked my class what it is about humanity that allows us to do such awful things. Together we were dumb-founded as we contemplated the question.
Then I said, “How do we prevent such things from happening?”
“Awareness!” many of them replied.
“Is awareness enough?” I asked.
“No,” a wise student said. “We must also take action.”
I think of that interaction over and over as I involve myself in peacemaking. I don’t consider myself an activist because I feel like I barely do anything. I simply hang out with the type of people I want to be like.
But I am involved. I belong to a couple peace communities. I attend meetings and ask a lot of questions and am amazed by how much more there is to be concerned about, how much more I can still learn. I pray with the pacifists and am inspired by their stories about working for social change with creative non-violence.
Peacemaking is definately a combination of awareness and action. The groups I belong to are trying to do both. Here’s some samples:
Some of my friends from one of the groups I belong to, Kairos Chicago, are in Washington D.C. this week lobbying to end torture as part of the 100 days campaign. Yesterday they attended a Senate committee meeting on Senator Patrick Leahy’s proposal for a “Truth Commission” to investigate and uncover how the U.S. could indefinitely detain and torture “enemy combatants,” including U.S. citizens, in the “war on terror.” Although the group supports a Truth Commission, they also insist that the victims’ voices must be part of this. They dressed in orange jumpsuits and held signs–“Listen to the victims”–at the hearing.
The other main group of peacemakers that I belong to is my community, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration. More specifically, the Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation Committee (JPICC) is working to increase awareness about the complexity of world hunger. Through the lens of the situation in Columbia we are working to understand how several social problems connect. Every awareness story includes an action.
Even though social problems are extremely complicated I am a Easter person, walking in the Lenten season. I will not give up hope that with increased awareness and action we can end the holocausts of our time.
Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a novice with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She works at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.