Peace Sunday - October 28, 2012
A Glen Rhodes skit by Renate Schober with collaboration of Rose Harvey and Robin Wardlaw, written for Peace Sunday, 2012, to bring attention to the need for reconciliation and collaboration both internationally and within continents, countries, cities and individuals who make up our world. The skit highlights the need for peace on each of the seven continents: Africa, Asia, South America, Europe, Australia and the Oceanic, North America, and the Antarctica.
“Seek peace and pursue it” presents three characters: a Journalist; the Voice of the People; and a Priest. They will teach, reflect and preach Jesus’ gospel of peace and offer witness against all forms of violence and war. At the end of this skit, you will have a chance to participate during the hymn, either by saying “Peace” in a different language using the small handout sheets in the pews this morning, or by mounting the word “Peace” on the board here at the front.
Priest: For some, peace represents a world free of violent conflict that stems from ethnic, cultural, religious, or political differences. To others, the promotion of democracy, justice and human rights are additional and equally important factors of peace. Negative peace is the absence of war and violence. Positive peace extends this definition by insisting on the promotion of social justice.
· On the continent of Africa, 24 countries are involved in conflict, as well as 107 militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups.
· Hot spots are Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Puntland, Somalia, and Somaliland. Added to these are Cote d’Ivoire (or the Ivory Coast), Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Rwanda.
· According to reports on May 12, 2010, there have been over 9 million refugees and internationally displaced people from conflicts in Africa. Hundreds and thousands of people have been slaughtered in bloody conflicts and civil wars. In the Ivory Coast, a million people are thought to have fled their homes, of which about 100,000 have crossed into neighbouring Liberia. Thousands of civilians have been killed in what human rights observers have found to be mass human rights violations. If this scale of destruction and fighting was in Europe, then people would be calling it World War III.
· AIDS in Africa is said to be killing more people than conflicts. As well, 12 million people are in dire need of food, clean water, and basic sanitation.
Voice of the People (Eve)
· I am a woman from Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast). Last year, I fled with my children to a refugee camp in Liberia. Ambassadors from the United Nations visited our camp last week. I told them we had to flee because armed gangs were threatening our neighbourhood. There have been rapes and killings.I was scared, scared for my children.
· My husband worked in the Diamond industry. He worked in the mines, 14 hours a day, for little pay. He did not say much about his work conditions, except it was better for me to not know. Gangs asked him to participate in diamond smuggling. He refused and, one day, he did not come home from work. I think he was killed. This is when we fled to Liberia. I am alone with my three children.
· I pray that God will lead me back home to my country. It is my country of birth. I want my children to grow up in my home country. I want them to go to school, I want them to have a better life, I want them to live in peace.
· I do not know whether God hears me, and sometimes I forget he is there. But I am surviving; I need to survive for my children.
International Day of Peace was established by the United Nations Resolution in 1981 to be observed for the first time in September of 1982. The resolution declares that this Day be observed as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities for the duration of the Day. By 2012, the United Nations included a call for efforts to achieve the easing of tensions and causes of conflict, and efforts to achieve nonviolent endings to conflicts around the world. Also included are efforts to care for the environment as an essential element in achieving the sustainability of peace.
Thanksgiving for Light and Peace:
Let us pray for women such as Eve
and all the others in Africa affected by conflict and war.
· In Asia, 15 countries and 87 militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups are involved in conflict. Added to these are 8 countries in the Middle East, where 91 militia-guerrillas and separatist groups are active in conflict and violence.
· Hot spots are Afghanistan, Burma-Myanmar, Pakistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Turkey and Yemen.
· Following the September 11th 2001 attack on the World Trade Centre, the US, United Kingdom, and Australia formed “Operation Enduring Freedom” and invaded Afghanistan a month later. Since 2001, the United States has deployed 101,000 troops to Afghanistan. 2,000 soldiers have died. Over a thousand NATO troops have also died. 25,000 Canadians were deployed and 158 have died. In addition, Afghan civilian deaths are more than 20,000 people. Most were killed by NATO-allied air combat missions, and by Taliban suicide and insurgent attacks. For the United States, the total project cost relating to Afghanistan from inception to the year 2011 is expected to be $468 billion. On May 21, 2012, NATO announced an exit strategy. Combat will be replaced by advising, training and assisting the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its president, Hamid Karzai, to build a credible police and security force under democratically elected leadership.
Voice of the People (Raheel)
· I am from Kabul, Afghanistan. I fled violence in my country, and went to get help in a refugee camp in Pakistan. I spent two years in the camp, and was then allowed to immigrate to Canada. I first lived in a shelter. Then I moved to Flemingdon Park here in Toronto, where many Afghan people have settled. I am Muslim and I am able to practice my faith here. I have some friends, who are also immigrants from Afghanistan – we share the same language and culture, and this makes me feel like I am home. But I am careful even with people from my own country. Some of them belong to a different Muslim faction; back home there is conflict between different Muslim groups. I try to stay safe.
· I have some bad memories. I remember the day my younger sister was killed. There was a bomb that exploded, and she was right there when it happened. When I saw her lying on the street, her brain was outside her head. She was dead. I miss her. I pray to Allah, and I believe he is testing my faith.
· All my family is back in Kabul. I am here alone. I am on welfare, and I volunteer at a local community centre. I do not have money to pay for an education. Perhaps I will be able to find work somewhere. I will try the best I can. I want to bring my mother to Canada. This is my dream. I miss Afghanistan.
At the 38th General Council in 2003, the United Church named six core pillars that sustain peace and justice: equitable global economic development; promotion of human rights; democratic governance; a healthy, sustainable physical environment; war prevention and peace building; and arms control and disarmament agreements. In 2006 at the 39th General Council, a $1 million peace fund was established to support peace initiatives in Palestine and Israel. At a subsequent meeting, the Executive of the General Council decided to expand the initiative to a $2 million fund to support peace work in all parts of the Globe, including in Canada. Several projects have been funded, but the peace fund is still well short of its goal.
Let us pray for Raheel and all those exiled from their homes by the threat of violence.
· In the South Americas, conflict is active in five countries and between 24 drug cartels, militias-guerrillas, separatist groups and anarchic groups.
· Hot spots are Columbia and Mexico
· Columbia, like many of its neighbours, is a nation of deep social inequalities and rampant human rights abuses. It has hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people.
· Land ownership issues are at the heart of Columbia’s conflict, which is funded by Cocaine trafficking and far-right militias. They have colluded with a military widely questioned for human rights abuses. The country grapples with insurgencies and drug trafficking.
· Behind much of the conflict is a terrorist organization known as FARC from its initials F.A.R.C. FARC has been involved in the forced enlistment of minors, kidnapping of children for ransom, the sexual exploitation of female recruits, horrific urban bombings, rape, executions, and extortion. The government, in turn, has been accused of “state-sponsored violence” and “the crime of capitalism and neo-liberalism” in its pursuit of insurgents.
· The Columbian government has negotiated over the past few decades with many insurgent and criminal groups. There was no resolution to the conflicts. This year, on October 18, 2012, Columbia’s lead negotiator Humberto de la Calle joined peace talks with FARC in Oslo. These talks will continue in Cuba later in November and there is, yet again, hope for peace.
Voice of the People (Fernando)
· I speak for Columbia. I have served in the insurgent rebel group FARC for 10 years. I was recruited into the group in my teens, when I was experimenting with drugs and earned extra income through drug trafficking. I was able to support my family, and was proud of it.
· Slowly, I gained the respect of the rebels and leaders. I was allowed to participate in kidnappings for ransom. This gave me a sense of power, of righting the wrongs done to my country. I stay close to my rebel group. They are my friends and family. We are fighting against inequality in land ownership and a deceptive government. These are my causes.
· I am seeing less and less of my family. I don’t want them to know about all the things I do. And I don’t want to put them at risk. I want to secure their safety, and the only way to do that is to stay away, far away from the family that raised me. I still love my family.
· I wonder about my future. Where will it take me? Will I marry? Will I have children? And how would I raise them? Will I always be with the rebels? If I leave, where would I go? I have no place to go. If I decided to leave, they would kill me. There is no return.
· I was raised a Catholic, by a faithful mother and hard-working father who never got ahead in this world. I no longer have faith – where is this God, who promises to keep us safe and loved, and where is this Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins. I have died many times over. There is no way to turn back. Sometimes I ease the pain by using drugs. They make me feel good. They are my new heaven.
Let us pray for men like Fernando and all those caught up in the cycle of violence.
· In Europe, 8 countries are involved in war, and 57 militias, separatist groups and anarchic group participate in violence and conflict.
· Hot spots are Chechnya and Dagestan. The former Yugoslavia continues to experience ethnic conflict.
· In the former Yugoslavia, local organizations and peacebuilders are attempting to build stable, peaceful societies, and much of their work focuses on improving relations between Bosnian Serbs and Muslims, Albanians, and Croats after the brutal violence they have suffered and inflicted on one another.
· War in Bosnia saw the re-emergence of detention camps, systematic use of rape and mass rape, and large-scale massacres. This war left 2.2 million people displaced, and up to 100,000 dead. 10,000 people are still missing. The unemployment rate is at 40%, with widespread poverty, fertile ground to draw young men back into violence as a means of survival.
· In 2013, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia will hear cases against the Bosnian Serbs, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. They have been indicted for serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, and the ordering of massacres and genocide. It is hoped that the conviction of these men may contribute to peace and stability in the whole region.
Voice of the People (Maria)
· I am a Serbian woman from Bosnia. Although I am Serb, I was so frightened when I learned about the Srebrenica massacre against Bosnian Muslims. They call him “The Butcher of Bosnia” – he was a Serb, like me. I do not understand what happened. I no longer understand anything at all.
· We had war in Bosnia. I lost my two sons. I miss them terribly. They were fighting for an independent Bosnia – I believe in an independent Bosnia, but I don’t believe in war.
· Our economy is dead. I see children selling cigarettes in the streets. They support their families. There is sex-trafficking. Young girls are drawn into this business, and I have heard that some are sold as sex slaves. I don’t know how to protect my daughter. She is 19 years old and not married. I worry about her.
· Mostly, I feel despair and fear. But often I feel nothing at all. I tried to keep my family together, but I couldn’t – both my sons are dead, and nothing will bring them back. I have also lost my brother and my husband’s brothers. We don’t know what happened to them. They are missing. There is so much sorrow, and I don’t know how to go on.
· As a Serb, I am an Orthodox Christian. I attend church. Often I think that this war is like the crucifixion of Jesus. But for what sins have we died? And will our children benefit from our sacrifice? I believe in God, and I hope that he will keep my sons safe. I also hope that he will give me strength and lead our country to peace. But I’m not sure this will happen, and sometimes I am not sure about God at all.
Let us pray for Maria, and all those grieving the loss of loved ones.
Australia and Oceanic
· This continent includes Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Volcanic Islands.
· Australia topped the polls as the best country of the world in which to live.
· British colonization of Australia started in about 1788. Today, there are only 400,000 Aboriginal people left in Australia.
· The Aboriginees, as they are called, have come to face problems similar to those confronted by indigenous people in Canada and the United States. They experience high rates of alcohol and drug abuse and the loss of their land, language, culture and traditions.
· Land and property rights claims led to a civil rights movement in the 1970s. The Australian government passed The Aboriginal Land Rights Act in 1976, enabling its indigenous peoples to claim land taken by British settlers. Today, there are also a range of specialized programs available to Aborigenees, from economic development, to health care, education, and family re-unification.
· In 2007, the United Nations passed a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to protect land and resources, and to maintain unique cultures and traditions. Only four countries voted against this Declaration: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States.
Voice of the People (James, called “Jamie”)
· I am proud to be Australian, with British ancestry. My forefathers were settlers and they built a very successful life for themselves and their families. They also helped Australia become a strong and successful country.
· I am married with children, and I have a good job and my own home. Life couldn’t be better.
· I feel sorry for the people who are less successful, especially the Aboriginees. I do not understand why the Aboriginees should make land claims going back hundreds of years. They lost their land, and now it belongs to us. They need to understand and accept history. Our government has set up many programs to help these people improve their lives. So we are doing our part.
· I think I am more concerned about the environment, the loss of agricultural land, logging and whaling, pollution of fresh water supplies, and the depletion of coastal fisheries. This is what we need to focus on, to provide a good future for our children.
Let us pray for Jamie, and all who wrestle with thoughts and feelings of superiority.
· The United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) is used to rate different countries along a scale of human development, based on life expectancy, education, standard of living, child welfare, healthcare, economic welfare and personal happiness. In 2010, the United States was in 4th place and Canada in 6th place on this index.
· The past decade in both Canada and the United States has seen a growing gap between the rich and the poor. Income for the top 10% of earners has increased, while income for the bottom 10% of earners has decreased. In the USA (2010), the top 1% of households owned 42.1% of all assets. In Canada, the top 1% of households own 1/3 of all assets, and the top 10% own 50% of all assets.
· According to an August 29, 2012 CBC report, 1.7 million Ontarians live in poverty, and 1 in 7 children live in poverty. 19% less money was earned by workers of colour compared to Caucasian workers; and 29% less money was earned by women compared to men. In March of 2010, 402,000 people in Ontario relied on a Food Bank to make it through the month. This inequality raises questions about fairness, and can lead to social tensions.
· In Toronto, we have seen gang violence and killings. Two young Canadians recently committed suicide, caused by intense bullying. In Ontario, 2,740 Human Rights Complaints were filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in 2011-2012. 70% of the cases involved employment situations, and grounds for discrimination included disability (54%), race (29%), and ethnic origin (15%).
· We have structures and systems in place to better the lives of those who have been adversely affected. But it all seems to take a lot of time.
Voice of the People (Rose)
· I worship at Glen Rhodes United. I am an immigrant woman, and have worked hard as a professional all my life. I am now retired and live with my mother. Glen Rhodes is my faith community; this community gives me hope, strength and inspiration to work for social justice.
· I have served on church committees to help govern the church and its work. My mother volunteers in the food bank and for monthly community dinners. The community dinners are attended by over 100 people who are thankful for a meal and thankful to know that we care.
· I wish our governments would work together to help the poor and disadvantaged. It is a crime that so many people have to come for help in a country that has so much to give. My membership in the United Church is important, because I know the Church does advocacy on behalf of the poor and works for social justice here and in the world. We work for peace, reconciliation, nuclear abolition and disarmament. I wish that the lonely suffering heart around world could know that we keep them in our prayers every week. They are not alone. God is with them.
We pray for ourselves, Prince of Peace,
and this congregation of your people,
that we may be a place of peace,
a sanctuary from conflict,
a force for justice in our community and in our world.
Help us, Holy One, as we raise our voices and our hearts
for the sake of a world more whole.
· The Antarctica is a continent of contradictions: volcanoes erupting from a frozen landscape, and miles and miles of ice. An arid land surrounded by three oceans. Over the past century, global warming has caused partial melting of ice, snow fields and small glaciers.
· Animal life in Antarctica is flourishing. It includes whales, seals, orcas, penguins, albatrosses, auks and guillemots. Antarctica’s waters are a good food source for these creatures.
· On December 1, 1959 the Antarctic Treaty was signed in Washington by seven countries: Australia, Argentine, Chili, France, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. The total number of parties to the Treaty is now 50. The Treaty specifies that Antarctica be used for peaceful purposes only. It is a military-free continent with no weapons testing of any sort, including nuclear testing. All plants and animals are protected under the Treaty, and legislation has banned mining and oil exploration.
· The Treaty has granted and supported freedom of scientific investigation and collaboration. During the dark 6 months of the year, the South Pole has a population of 28 scientists from around the world. For seven months, from February until a plane flies in mid-winter with supplies, their only link to the outside world is the internet, phone and radio.
Voice of the People
- I speak for the whales, and penguins, and seals and other species of animals that make Antarctica their home. This is a true home, freedom to explore and freedom to be. Untouched by human hands.
Let us pray for all the creatures in and around Antartica,
and throughout the world, living in the world God gave them.
Reporter, Voice of the People, and Priest: -
Imagine a new heaven and new earth.
The world will be at peace.