Rene Marshall shared a great reflection on the recent violence in Jos, Nigeria and the youth that were involved.
“The spiritual decision I made this year in camp was not to steal, no fighting, and no lying. May God give me understanding and love to people, not to be bad to any people in this community.” –Jos ECWA Camp Youth Alive Camper
Two youth campers
Two youths at ECWA Camp
As I read over this evaluation the other day, I could not help but wonder about the camper who wrote it. Was he involved in the recent Jos crisis? Did he have an opportunity to retaliate and involve himself in violence? Did he choose not to in the name of love and Christ-like humility? Has he been an agent of peace and comfort to those in his community now in the wake of the crisis? All of these questions started swirling around in my head and I started to have a new perspective of the situation we’re living in.
Like the rest of the Jos population, the events of late November 2008 set me back on my heels and made me take another look at the city and community I live in. As someone who has devoted her life towards working with youth, specifically, Nigerian youth, my heart ached when I heard that youths were the ones carrying out many of these atrocities.
Rene wonders how different the riots in Jos would have been if more of the youth would have had the chance to learn about real grace.
What if they memorized scriptures like 2 Corinthians 4:8,
“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going…Yes, we live in constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be obvious in our dying bodies.”
Or James 1:2-4,
“Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything.”
Christian author Shane Claiborne has said, “grace is contagious, just like violence.” What if we were able to channel the passion and energy of the youth into spreading grace and not violence?
I have to also think back to my backyard and the neighborhood/city I live in – even the state and country I live in. Are we quick to return violence for violence. Are we so set on revenge that we’ve completely forgotten that God says, “Vengeance is mine.”?
What if as Brian McLaren says, we’re known for an “insurgency of love” rather than an insurgency of shock and awe? Wouldn’t that be the greater shock and awe – if we turned the other cheek – if we sought non-violence rather than revenge?
I still think back to Bush’s Ungiven Speech that McLaren wrote. What if?
Since I hold to the ancient beliefs that vengeance is not a human prerogative and that pride goes before a fall, I have no desire to take our nation down that bitter road. I have become convinced that if we follow a course of war, the results will be undesirable at best and catastrophic at worst. But if we refuse to return violence for violence, if we decide on a response that is at once courageous and peaceful, we can seize this tragic moment as an opportunity not to return evil with evil, but rather to overcome evil with good.
Since September 11, America has experienced an outpouring of emotion from nations around the world. It has been said that on September 11, everyone became an American because all shared our grief and shock. And we Americans learned and felt what so many people in other nations experience on a daily basis: vulnerability, danger, and fear. So in a sense, the whole world has been caught up in a moment of global empathy since that tragic day. I would like to seize upon this moment.
So I am today proposing a plan of peace and security, not through war and revenge, but through cooperation and justice. My plan could be called a plan of courage, character, and cooperation…
If we launch a massive military response to terrorist attacks, we make ourselves appear aggressive and intrusive globally, which plays into the image of us terrorists want to paint, enabling them to recruit more terrorists, launch more attacks, and plunge us farther and farther into their vicious downward cycle. Instead, we must refuse to be drawn into their trap. We must defeat terrorism through broad and multi-faceted international cooperation, dealing collaboratively with its causes and reaching broad international consensus on how to respond when terrorist actions arise.
Martin Luther King Jr wrote ::
Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder.
Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth.
Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate.
Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that . . .
We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say we must not wage war. It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war but the positive affirmation of peace. We must see that peace represents a sweeter music, a cosmic melody, that is far superior to the dis-chords of war.
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Love wins! Now what can you do to prove it to the world?