Booster Shot

Last night I received a much needed “booster shot” of hope. I have been all too aware of how much of a mess the world is in, with wars, poverty, disease, persistent and increasing division within our democracy and a lot of people in the world, both in our own communities and on the world stage, who seem to always be making bad decisions. Where is the peace, the justice, the love that we all want to characterize the world?

I needed a shot of hope, and I got it in the person of Desmond Tutu. Along with 3 others from GGCC, I had the opportunity last night to attend the PeaceJam Hero Awards downtown. Attendance was certainly impacted by the sub-zero temperatures, but the event was very encouraging. Awards were presented to an elementary school teacher who has succeeded in cultivating an awareness of peacemaking in her classes in 3 different schools, and to the Latin American Student Association at Westminster HS, which has engaged many Latino youth in actively working to change their individual and collective futures.

But the highlight of the night was the new film biography of Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu – “Children of the Light”. This film told the story of this church leader’s faith, patience and persistence in the face of the horribly dehumanizing apartheid system in South Africa, leading his people through terrible oppression to a new day. Bishop Tutu faced incredible odds and was assaulted and criticized by both the intransigent white government and by the black radicals who demanded immediate change.

Tutu was able to consistently call for peaceful change and to encourage his people to persist in their commitment to that strategy, and was eventually rewarded by free elections and a largely peaceful transition of power in the country. Even more impressive was his work leading the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission which allowed victims of violence and oppression to tell their stories, and perpetrators of violence and unjust laws to confess and receive amnesty. This program of restorative justice was not perfect, but was moving in its impact on both victims and perpetrators alike.

Bishop Tutu’s constant theme was patience and persistence. Do what God calls you to do to advance his justice and peace in the world, and eventually the truth will win out. Lies cannot permanently overcome truth. Problems persist – people still abuse and take advantage of others – but apartheid is no more in South Africa! Positive change is possible. And not least because of the loving, joyful spirit exhibited by this very small man.

God of all the nations, thank you for your servant Desmond Tutu, and for his care for your people in South Africa. Thank you for his reminder of the importance of patience and persistence in the face of evil, both on individual and on systemic levels. May we learn from his commitment to peace, and from his courage to stand up against wrong, despite the efforts of the Evil One to make us quit in discouragement. Give us your peace and encouragement that we can share with our neighbors, both near and far. Amen

Dave Erickson-Pearson

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