Over the last few days our news has been full of stories of violent acts that have resulted in the deaths of many hundreds and suffering for innumerable people. Such acts of violence, while reported in graphic detail, can seem so far away, so enormous in impact, so overwhelming in their destruction and evil that it can be hard to know how to respond appropriately.
Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and writer, died approximately the same time as news of the bomb blasts across the world came through. His writing, speaking and activism remind us that in the face of overwhelming suffering and injustice, we should seek to avoid indifference or despairing. He said –
….it is we who decide whether word become spears or balm, carriers of bigotry or vehicles of understanding, whether they are used to curse or to heal, whether they are here to cause shame or to give comfort ….whether words are to be turned into poisonous adders or into peace offerings. I belong to a generation that has learned that whatever the question, despair is not an answer; whatever the experience, indifference is not an option.” – Elie Wiesel Day of Remembrance Speech, 2009
How might we avoid both despair and indifference?
I think in the face of such violence we need to accept that there is little we can do for the victims. But we can pray and we can offer financial support. We can refuse to turn away so that there are witnesses to this suffering. And we can allow these stories to shape our living. This means in our own spheres of influence we try to ensure that our words and actions create communities of understanding, healing and respect. We can encourage friendship and dialogue across boundaries of race and religion. We can speak up when we witness discrimination and harassment. We can be agents of understanding in the places we work and play and live in, helping to build robust resilient communities that can withstand hatred.
And as people of faith, we can continue to gather to hear the stories, to pray our prayers and to be reminded that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the truth – that we are both people broken by suffering, injustice and cruelty and people made new in this fragile broken world by God’s unending love and grace. This twin story of brokenness endured by strong grace saves us from indifference and despair, because we are held by a love that could not be defeated by evil.
God of enduring grace
Shape our living that it might reflect your goodness and love
Shape our praying that we might remember the suffering ones of the world
Shape our hoping that we might seek to be peace makers. Amen
Rev Sharon Hollis