Sept. 5, 2014: Five years later, message for peace is still strong, by Sarah Jenkins

September 5, 2014 by

Sarah Jenkins

Sarah Jenkins

As Concordia prepares for Fall Fest in just a few short weeks, consider that the end of September also marks the fifth anniversary of these Year of Peace columns in the Blade-Empire.

On Sept. 25, 2009, Sister Carolyn Teter launched the effort with these words:

“Peace is more than the absence of war. Peace is a set of values, attitudes and behaviors: It means respect for others regardless of race, gender, age, nationality, class, sexuality, appearance, political or religious belief, physical or mental ability. This respect requires a great empathy for others — a willingness to understand their views from their standpoint.”

And in the 152 columns that followed — or 153, if you count today’s — people from throughout Concordia have explored that “willingness to understand.”

Frankly, it’s tough sometimes.

Five years ago none of us had heard of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and we thought there could never be a more brutal organization than al-Qaeda.

Five years ago, few of us could have found Ferguson on a Missouri map.

Five years ago, if we thought about the Gaza Strip at all, it was with a vague recollection that it had been a central piece of earlier disputes.

Five years ago, Ukraine was just another former Soviet Republic no longer under the threat of the Bear that had been the USSR.

Yet, as Sister Carolyn wrote five years ago, “Peace will ask of us to believe that positive changes can be made by individuals and groups of people.”

To do that, I have only to look at other news since September 2009:

As 2009 ended, UNICEF reported that child mortality rates had dropped 27 percent worldwide since 1990. For children age 5 and younger, that continued an even more positive trend: Death rates for the youngest children worldwide have dropped 60 percent since 1960.

During the summer of 2010, billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet launched the “Giving Pledge” — and more than 50 of the wealthiest families and individuals in the United States joined in by committing to giving away the majority of their wealth to charitable causes before they die. The first 57 signatories could generate $600 billion dollars for charity.

In December 2011, three women — two Liberians and one Yemeni — shared that year’s Nobel Peace Prize “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights.” The three are among only 15 women ever to win the Peace Prize.

In August, 2012, Curiosity, the largest and most advanced spacecraft ever sent to another planet, landed on Mars — a triumph for the more than 5,000 people from 37 states who had believed in and worked on the NASA project for 10 years.

In 2012, India had its first polio-free year — and $1 billion and 23 years of volunteer work donated by Rotary club members worldwide had made the dream a reality. The incidence of infection plunged during that time from 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2010.

In April 2013, the Vatican Conclave named Pope Francis to lead the Roman Catholic Church, and within hours it was clear he intended to transform the global view of the papacy. He has shown humility in his role as church leader and called for dedicated service toward the weakest among us.

In July 2013, Pakistani Malala Yousafzaki celebrated her 16th birthday by delivering an impassioned speech at the United Nations, calling on all countries to recognize the rights of all children to get an education. Less than a year after being shot by Taliban militants, she showed us the true meaning of courage as she healed her own wounds and vowed to continue trying to heal her nation’s illiteracy.

And, of course, in April 2014, more than 900 volunteers came together in Concordia to create Cloudville in City Park.

There are many more examples, of course — both of the violence that is too often pervasive and of the acts of courage and commitment that continue to give me hope.

On Sept. 25, 2009, Sister Carolyn ended her column this way:

“Building a culture of peace will entail developing on a daily basis the values, attitudes and behavior that are in keeping with respect, tolerance, equality, sharing and generosity.”

Five years and 153 columns later, I’ll just ask that you read that concluding sentence one more time. And then keep working on it.

— Sarah Jenkins is the communications director for the Sisters of St. Joseph.

 

 

 

 

 

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