This week we join the world in mourning the passengers and crew killed in the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 explosion. While families and friends try to make meaning of a senseless loss, world leaders posture with accusations and recriminations. If there is anything clear about the worth of the lives lost in this tragedy, it is that they are being viewed as collateral damage in an escalating conflict in the Ukraine regardless of where the finger points. It would be better if this loss of lives could make world leaders come together to question the conflict itself, rather than escalate it. Then, we might have a proper response and memorial to the loss of so many precious people.
Has the worth of life become cheapened through being a nation and world that now seems to have a chronic “war disease”? Have we become desensitized by nearly 14 years of constant warring to the power of empathy and committed diplomacy to change the course of escalating conflicts between nations?
In John Henson’s translation of the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says, “If two people in a family or a community re-direct the energy they’ve been wasting on fighting each other into working together in harmony, there’s no limit to what they’ll be able to achieve.” It would be quite extraordinary if this wisdom could be applied to nations as well, especially in the troubling re-emergence of a Cold War mentality. It is as if our countries need one another as nemeses in order to know who we are in a disturbingly post-superpower world of insurgence and terrorist networks.
The Way of Christ invites us to find our purpose, and even adrenaline, in achieving life-giving goals together for our community and world around us. It is one of the reasons that we practice crucial skills for transforming conflict through being part of a spiritual community. And as each of us learns better ways for transforming and being transformed through constructive conflict engagement, perhaps our world will gain a critical mass of people across cultures, religions and nationalities to hold that ‘war’ is no longer considered an option within the acceptable definition of what it means to truly be human and humane anymore.
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