No Community Is an Island
The search for peace leads to a new initiative for the neighborhood kids.
In my community, Back of the Yards in Chicago, I have seen both violence and love between our brothers and sisters. I have witnessed the compassion and care of the people in our parish, who do everything possible to help others. As a young Mexican woman of this neighborhood, I have also witnessed the racism that still exists and divides our society. I have seen incredible injustices.
Last year I was invited to a weeklong retreat at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago to reflect on ways to be a peacemaker. Those who attended were mostly from the suburbs, and I felt uncomfortable being one of the few Latinas from the inner city, thinking that perhaps the others would not really understand the reality of poverty.
The week, however, changed all of our lives, and I made a commitment to work for peace in my neighborhood. I developed a peace project.
For community service, my retreat group visited a site where mothers who are addicted to drugs are rehabilitated. We had the opportunity to visit their children, who have suffered so much. These children have been physically, emotionally, and sexually abused. They bore the scars of abuse left on their body. But at the same time, these children were full of faith and life. Instead of us helping them, they helped us.
Now I want to bring together youth of different ethnic, religious, cultural, and economic backgrounds to serve as mentors and guides to our children and listen to their stories. My vision is not just to bring people from another neighborhood to make new friends but to open their minds and hearts through the experience of interacting with one another.
This work is not easy and I see many obstacles, but if, like a family, we come together to share our values, we can do away with the ignorance that creates violence and hate. The youth who are engaged in this project will one day be the leaders of our communities, of our country. Now is the time to learn about other cultures and social systems, in the hopes that such knowledge will bring about change.
We have to put our judgments aside, place our differences behind us, and unite as brothers and sisters. Do we not live in the same world together? Are we not related, regardless of the color of our skin? It is our responsibility to create a world of peace together.
- What are the problems I find in my community?
- Is there anything I could do to become a peacemaker?