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Andrew Lyke is the Director of the Office for Black Catholics. He and his wife are co-founders of ArusiNetwork. From 1999 to 2009 he was the Coordinator of Marriage Ministry for the Archdiocese.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Are We Peacemakers or Peacekeepers?

This is Part II of my Blog post on February 6, which expresses my profound reaction to a presentation by Elder Bernice King at St. Sabina’s on Chicago’s Southside last month on the subject of non-violence.


Elder Bernice King warned not to mistake peacemaking with peacekeeping.  Keeping the peace is merely about diminishing tensions, and feeling good about ourselves, feeling good about our relationships with others. Peacekeeping would sometimes have us dismiss truth.

Whereas, peacemaking is grounded in truth; it reveal truth and seeks justice. Though, in doing so peacemakers may need to endure tensions and confront violence. Peacemakers may be the targets of violence and harmed by evil and the wickedness of the world. Yet, peacemakers, real peacemakers use love and non-violence as their weapons.

Peacemakers aren’t always in serene surroundings. Because they are peacemakers violence may be a regular feature in their lives, endured not perpetrated, afflicting not inflicting. For true peace is not the absence of tension but the presence of justice.

Don’t mistake peacemaking for peacekeeping. It takes great courage to be a peacemaker because they don’t have any delusions about where their power comes from. They rely on the power of God, and their access to that power is through their relationship with God, which is fueled by prayer.

The Civil Rights Movement was a spiritual movement that was powered by the force of God. Its mission was not limited, however, to just the revoking of immoral laws and public policies that created and sustained legal apartheid in the United States. There were some who wanted such limitation. But, Dr. King knew that this was a movement about truth and justice that needed to permeate all corners of our society, not just about racial justice, but also economic justice, locally and globally. It was about more than freeing Black people but freeing America from a course in history evil in design.

In un-earned suffering there is redemption. That’s what makes Black people in America a prophetic people. Ours is a story of redemption, of making it through, of surviving the horrors of the Middle Passage, the demoralization of servitude as human chattel as slaves, legal apartheid in so called “separate-but-equal” second-class citizenship, and the continued systemic and institutional racism that continues to dog us to this day. Yes, ours is a story of redemption, but not just our redemption. As a prophetic people we are a voice crying out in the wilderness that points the way to God. We are leaven in society and in the Catholic Church. This is what Sr. Thea Bowman taught us. This is what the pioneers of the Black Catholic Movement believed and lived.

But, sometimes it feels as though we have forgotten this. Because we are children of God, because we are a prophetic people, and because there is redemption in un-earned suffering, we have at our disposal power that comes from God to be peacemakers. We are the Body of Christ and we must stand up and stand on the promise that comes from what we believe about ourselves and what we believe about our God and what we believe about our relationship with God. We must stand up! And shame on us if we don’t. 

In the pastor’s closing remarks on that Sunday at St. Sabina’s, Fr. Michael Pfleger asserted, “God said, ‘I have the power and you have the faith!’” My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us tap into the power of almighty God in faith fueled by prayer so that we may live courageously in the face of evil and resist settling for being peacekeepers who offer only temporary cessation of tensions. We must be the peacemakers who are truth-telling, justice-seekers who channel a lasting peace that comes from God through Christ. In doing so, we live the mission of the prophetic people we are called to be.

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