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Understanding and Violence

Photo by jimpg2_2015 on Flickr

I attended a talk recently on violence and religion (I know – it sounds awful and interesting). It was an interfaith gathering where a Catholic priest, a Jewish scholar and a college math professor/teacher at the local mosque talked about violence and how it has been a part of faith history for as long as one can remember and further back than that.

As I listened to the speakers I thought about a few things:

  1. People are against violence,
  2. People want to understand each other and know more, and
  3. People don’t really know what to do about either 1 or 2.

The speakers reminded the crowd that it is always injustice that sparks unrest which can lead to violence. They challenged the group to be the ones to do something to change the status quo such as learn a new language, travel to a place where you are the minority, watch the news, eat new foods, advocate for peace, try to live at peace with your spouse, your family, and maybe even your neighbor before attempting world peace.

The people left feeling pretty good. I didn’t. I wondered how this was all going to play out. Will our efforts as youth ministers make a difference with the young people we love and serve? How are we teaching non-violence and peace? Do we talk about big global issues with our teens or are we focused on personal faith? How can we do better at both?

I teach a Justice and Service course for youth ministers as part of the Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies. I find the students are often uncomfortable with social justice. It sounds political and radical. It conjures up visions of picketing, protests, letters to Congress, and hippies hanging out in parks with banners that say, "Make Love, Not War.”

b2ap3_thumbnail_rapids-50419_640.jpgYikes! If that’s what social justice really was all about, I would run. But it is more…way more. It is rooted deep in the Scriptures. In Amos 5:24 – Let justice roll down like the waters – Amos said the only way God would bless them was if they were people of justice, integrity, and honor. This would bring peace and prosperity and favor from God. In Matthew 25:31-46, there is the challenge to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison…when you do this you do it for Jesus. As the speaker said, “We have to start at home. Peace must first abide there – then we can understand the needs in the world.”

I strive for my students to learn that our church has always been about justice – always. Our popes, bishops, saints, and leaders have challenged us to bring the Good News to the places it is most needed. As youth ministers, we also have the responsibility to teach young people how to do this and give them opportunities to love and serve, to stand for justice and to BE the gospel in the world.

We are against violence. We really do want to understand others – but we must always seek ways to do something about it.  It’s the call of discipleship.

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