Getting In The Way of Violence
Confronting violence with the peaceful message of Jesus.
I remember when I was 8 years old and was celebrating my First Communion. The choir was singing "Leave your land, leave your home, and follow me. Come with me, and I will show you the Promised Land. Come with me, I am the way." Although I did not then understand very well what that meant, it did feel like a personal invitation from Jesus to me.
Two years ago I learned about the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), a program that aims to reduce violence and offer nonviolent alternatives to war through international accompaniment in areas of conflict. Their mission reminded me of the invitation I got when I was 8, and I felt called to participate in their work and follow their slogan, to "get in the way" of violence. I always felt that the only way to find Jesus was to "get in the way." By getting in the way, we create space for personal and social transformation.
My first experience with CPT was with a delegation to Israel. Since then I have served with CPT in Colombia, home of the longest-running insurgency/counterinsurgency war in the world, and in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Hebron.
My most recent CPT experience was near the U.S.-Mexico border. CPT was collaborating with a coalition that protects the lives of those crossing the border through the desert while promoting more humane and sustainable immigration policies in that region. We created movable camps in the desert, provided and maintained water stations there, and searched the desert for migrants in distress. We also offered food, clothing, and shelter to the migrants.
It struck me that the desert is a hard place. During the day it is extremely hot and at night colder than the worst kind of human selfishness.
But it is also a beautiful place, a biblical place. The Arizona desert is where we can find the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, and the stranger. There we are offered a unique blessing in a time when so many people only fear the stranger for the terror that he or she might bring to our homes. We need to get in the way and be blessed by the stranger.
- Have you ever had the experience of being in a hard place and finding God there?
- Where do you usually find God?