Waging Peace

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What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror?


“I did not pay much attention to the Amish school shooting,” confesses the best selling author Diana Butler Bass on the Sojo Website [Oct. 2, 2006]. “As the mother of an 8-year-old girl, I find school violence stories too painful to follow. Despite attempts to avoid this particular news, the stories of the Amish practice of forgiveness eventually captivated me. Their practice of forgiveness unfolded in four public acts over the course of a week.

First…some elders visited Marie Roberts, the wife of the murderer to offer forgiveness. Then…the families of the slain girls invited the widow to their own children’s funerals. Next…they requested that all relief monies intended for Amish families be shared with Roberts and her children. Finally…in an astonishing act of reconciliation, more than 30 members of the Amish community attended the funeral of the killer.

As my husband and I talked about the spiritual power of these actions, I commented in an offhanded way, ‘It is an amazing witness to the peace tradition.’ He looked at me and said passionately, ‘Witness? I don’t think so.

This went well past witnessing. They weren’t witnessing to anything. They were actively making peace.’

He was right. Their actions not only witness that the Christian God is a God of forgiveness, but they actively created the conditions in which forgiveness could happen. In the most straightforward way, they embarked on imitating Christ: ‘Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.’ In acting as Christ, they did not speculate on forgiveness. They forgave. And forgiveness is, as Christianity teaches, the prerequisite to peace. We forgive because God forgave us; in forgiving, we participate in God’s dream of reconciliation and shalom.

Then an odd thought occurred to me:

What if the Amish were in charge of the war on terror?

What if, on the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, we had gone to Osama bin Laden’s house (metaphorically, of course, since we didn’t know where he lived!) and offered him forgiveness?

What if we had invited the families of the hijackers to the funerals of the victims of 9/11?

What if a portion of The September 11th Fund had been dedicated to relieving poverty in a Muslim country?

What if we dignified the burial of their dead by our respectful grief?

What if, instead of seeking vengeance, we had stood together in human pain, looking honestly at the shared sin and sadness we suffered? What if we had tried to make peace?”

Diana Butler Bass is the author of six books on American religious practice and holds a Ph.D in religious studies from Duke University.

Originally published in October 2006 by sojo.net.

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