It’s not that there’s never any good news, uplifting news; but we can’t escape the every day facts of violence. With each news report we are pummeled with visions of terrorism and hate crimes. As a measure of degree, the University of Maryland Global Terrorism Database reports 180,000 terrorism attacks from 1970 – 2015 inclusive. In other acts of violence, hate crimes hit us with the sharp rapidity of the rapid fire weapons used to inflict them. All over the world people of good conscience gather when and where they can to mourn with victims and families at candlelight vigils. In places of war and conflict where people cannot gather, they are left to hold vigil in the silence of the heart.
A vigil, from the Latin vigilia meaning wakefulness is a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching or an observance.
But what exactly do we mean by vigil? A vigil is a SACRED kind of watchfulness, a call to be attentive and aware with devotion for the emotions that are sure to surge up within us— emotions of anger, even rage; emotions surrounding loss and shock; emotions steeped in frustration and fear. These emotions can convince us, if we are not careful, that rage justifies the kind of outrage that lashes out, repaying violence with violence, seeking a life for a life, an eye for an eye, the kind of rage that would turn the whole world into an unending whirl of violence and vengeance.
Inevitably, we must come to the question: “What WILL we do?” Because, now awakened, now alert, now vigilant…We know we are called to respond, to act, to engage in change that makes a difference.
Call it terrorism. Call it hate crime. It’s all of a piece. We find ourselves asking “what do we need to make sure we do not do?” How do we help those victimized by hate and honor the memory of those who were murdered by hate? How do we stand with those who are in compromised situations? How do we keep from falling into the pattern of hate ourselves? Given the size and complexity of the problems, how do we remain vigilant and not acquiesce back into silence, numbness, complacency?
Compassion and prayers must have feet. In cultures that continue to marginalize and stigmatize, how do we do more than pray? We know that a culture of violence creates an environment of numbness and distance and silent complicity, which can be and has been part of what perpetuates the continuance of the dominant culture. We have now heard enough shots to know that silence is inadequate to the task of countering a culture of violence. We must employ the power of love and peaceful engagement for we know that moments of silence and prayer are no longer enough. That they have never been enough…
The mission statement for The BeZine says:
We acknowledge that there are enormous theological differences and historical resentments that carve wedges among and within the traditions and ethnic or national groups, but we believe that ultimately self-preservation, common sense, and human solidarity will empower connections and collaboration and overcome division and disorder.”
In a world where our histories are marred by division and where social and economic inequity is rampant, where access to the tools of hate and war are easy and where it is easy to blame the “other” for the travesties of life, we must start with our faith organizations. Our faith organizations must stand consciously and firmly together to break down the divisions, to heal the histories, to move out of isolation and to honor the connectedness of all life. Joint grassroots efforts in our communities help to power the global movement toward peace and understanding, they harness the respect necessary to stop oppression. This is a way we most strongly affirm our faith in that Spirit that enlivens us all regardless of religion or creed.
– Rev. Ben Meyers, Minister, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo in California
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