15 November 2015

Je suis Paris; je suis le monde

Below is my opening meditation and prayer from Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship on November 15, 2015.

Today we come together to celebrate life and to mourn death. As many of us probably know, Paris was attacked last Friday evening. I have to tell you I have mixed feelings about talking about this. I have mixed feelings because Beirut, Lebanon was attacked by suicide bombers Thursday, and I didn't even notice. Another suicide bomber attacked a funeral in Baghdad on Friday, and I didn't know. Garissa University in Kenya suffered an attack with a similar death toll months ago and I had no idea until last night. The U.S. is still conducting drone strikes and other military operations that take human lives. Human lives that shouldn't have to be qualified with the terms "innoncent" or "guilty," but human lives that should be valued because they are lives.
 I have mixed feelings because this attack reminds me how much I am a typical Westerner oblivious to the goings on in Africa and in the East. It reminds me that I have become numb to violence committed in the East: violence committed by Westerners who are every bit as extreme as the self-proclaimed Islamic State, but who hide behind a false morality. I already see a new wave of Islamophobia sweeping across the West and it breaks my heart.
All of this evil in the world makes today, a baby dedication Sunday, even more important. One thing that we can do to make a difference is to share love and tolerance with the world around us. Part of the way that we change the world is by sharing our love and compassion with our children and allowing them to share it as well. Today, we celebrate our children and the love that we can bring into the world together with them.

Lastly, I would like to share a prayer adapted from a poem written by Karun Ezara Parikh, a TV host, film writer, and aspiring poet in India, that has gone viral.

It is not only Paris we pray for.
It is the world. It is a world in which Beirut,
reeling from bombings two days before Paris,
is not covered in the press.
A world in which a bomb goes off
at a funeral in Baghdad
and not one person's status update says "Baghdad,"
because not one white person died in that fire.
We pray for a world
that blames a refugee crisis for a terrorist attack.
That does not pause to differentiate between the attacker
and the person running from the very same thing we are.
We pray for a world
where people walking across countries for months,
their only belongings upon their backs,
are told they have no place to go.
We pray for Paris,
but we also pray for more;
for a world that does not have a prayer
for those who no longer have a home;
for a world that is falling apart in all corners,
and not simply in the towers and cafes we find so familiar.

We pray that we may come to God and to the world with the innocence, benevolence, and trust of a child. We pray that we and our children can be a loving presence in the world. We believe that one day the wolf and lamb, leopard and goat, and calf and lion will live together, led by a child (Isaiah 11.6-9).

Je suis Paris; je suis le monde.

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