For the time comes, says the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvellous work among the children of men – a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other; either to the convincing of them to peace and life eternal, or to the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds, to their being brought down into captivity and also to destruction, both temporally and spiritually.
Palmyra – in Syria and in New York: The history of modern Syria has been a troubled one, and in the last years we have seen the influx of a large number of Syrian refugees into Europe, the greatest number of refugees since WW2. Juxtapose this to Palmyra in the state of New York, named as such after Palmyra in Syria, a name we are familiar with as it holds significance for our own religious tradition. Palmyra was the place where Joseph Smith sought an answer to God in prayer in 1820 and where the Book of Mormon was first printed ten years later. I am fascinated by the links that can be made between these two highly symbolic places. One where the population has now become refugees to the world due to a terrible civil war, and the other from which springs the story of a people thought to have been destroyed due to civil war. Both the experiences of Syrian peoples and the record found in Mormon scriptures speak up against war and for just peace.
Voices crying from the dust: The Book of Mormon offers a vivid description of how a people were left to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds, as a warning signal to peoples of our time of the dangers of war and violence, when societies are governed based on the greed principle and the endless pursuit of power… It is normally thought that because of our knowledge as a people of faith of the negatives from the story of the Book of Mormon, we will in our own time and place instead choose the positives and try “to be more wise than what they have been”, as Moroni urges us towards the end of the Book of Mormon. Scriptures offer rich meaning and symbolism, often independently of their true origin and initial intent. The stories they tell bring parallelisms to our own situations and contexts today, if we choose to see them.
Refugees today: I understand that the story of Lehi and of his family, a family of middle eastern refugees fleeing for their own safety by boat to a land of promise, is today a parallel to the story of tens of thousands of middle eastern refugee families entering Europe by boat in hope of better times for themselves and for their loved ones. The way to just peace, as the Ecumenical call to Just Peace argues, requires both movement towards the goal and commitment to the journey. “Just Peace invites all of us to testify with our lives. To pursue peace, we must prevent and eliminate personal, structural and media violence, including violence against people because of race, caste, gender, sexual orientation, culture or religion. We must be responsible to those who have gone before us, living in ways that honor the wisdom of our ancestors and the witness of the saints in Christ. We also have a responsibility to those who are the future: our children, “tomorrow people”. Our children deserve to inherit a more just and peaceful world”.
Abinadi and Gandhi: Now there was a man among them, called Abinadi… […] Why would a man – among them – call other Nephites to repentance for having defended themselves against the Lamanites? King Noah is afraid of the divisions that this call to [just peace] might cause among his people, so he seeks to arrest Abinadi. The way to just peace as proclaimed by Abinadi is juxtaposed to the violence of King Noah and of his men against the Lamanites. Abinadi preaches peace to those of his own kind who rejoiced in having killed their enemies, who the scriptures refer to as their brethren. Abinadi’s preaching sets the tone for the rest of the Book of Mormon. In the story of Abinadi, I hear the echoes of the story of Gandhi in India, who stood up and spoke truth to power against the British crown.
A sad tale of destruction: On the Way of Just Peace, justifications of armed conflict and war become increasingly implausible and unacceptable. The Book of Mormon testifies to that truth. “Behold, I Moroni, finish the record of my father Mormon. Behold, I have but few things to write, which things I have been commanded of my father. Now after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites until they were all destroyed; and my father also was killed by them; and I remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people.” What other sad tales are there in the world today?
Care for Creation: The Ecumenical call to just peace explains that, “We know that all creation groans to be set free, not least from the abusive actions of humans (Romans 8:22). As people of faith, we acknowledge our guilt for the damage we have done to creation and all living things, through action and our inaction. The vision of Just Peace is much more than the restoration of right relationships in community; it also compels human beings to care for the earth as our home. We must trust in God’s promise and strive for an equitable and just sharing of the earth’s resources.”
“Right now, we have a call to action across the planet, and specifically on Turtle Island, also known as North America, for people to take to the streets, to rise up and rise with Standing Rock in mass mobilization, to support this effort and this fight against the abrogation of indigenous rights, and the complete disregard for the law of the land”.
“If you are desirous to come into the fold of God and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things, and in all places that you may be in, even until death, …”