Sunday, March 6, 2011

Driving home: Reflecting on Patel & Bonhoeffer

I drove home from the Nobel Peace Forum late last night after a full day of networking and "filling my emotional and spiritual tank."
Dr. Eboo Patel
, a worthy Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, spoke with a soothing yet strong voice.  His delivery forced me to really focus on his message; his words were power-packed.  I felt compelled to this morning to check out his Washington Post blog.  I read that Shahbaz Bhatti, minister of minorities and the sole Christian in the Pakistani government, was shot to death. (He had recently campaigned to reform a blasphemy law in Pakistan, calling for the death of those who speak against the Prophet Muhammad). Dr. Pate's blog reads: "Undoubtedly, some will say this is Islam. It's not. It's murder. Plain and simple. The Prophet Muhammad made it a clear priority that people of other faiths and traditions would feel safe around him and his companions."

Through interfaith dialogue on college campuses, and through social media, Dr. Patel aims to bring people together -- and his voice is doing just that.  His speech at the Forum was a litany of cases throughout history and around the world where fear turned to hope, lies to truth and hate/apathy to love.  He ended each stanza with the refrain that through these experiences these individuals learned that "they were better together than they were apart."

Dr. Patel briefly shared with the audience the story of  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whose well known quotes from my college days still ring in my ears: "Being free means 'being free for the other,' because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free."   Bonhoeffer understood the need for togetherness and interdependence and the need for social ministry: "We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself."  Funny how all these quotes that had such an impact on my heart and mind years ago came flooding back as I drove home from Iowa with the music off.  Bonhoeffer's opposition to Hitler cost him his life, but his words are definitely still alive: "The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children."

I'm excited to be home for two days to regroup before the 25 hour drive with my Kindergarten-age son and husband.  With such a fluid schedule, we couldn't make flight arrangements... so we're off another adventure cross country, this time to Phoenix Arizona for what I believe is a tipping point meeting.  I sense that we are on the cusp of a defining moment, a time that will be determine what life will be like for the next twelve to fifteen years, what our current kindergarten class will receive as it's graduation present from the current government leaders and their parents.  And frankly, I'm optimistic.  But globally we have a choice to either come together or to continue on a path that is precarious at best and very costly at worst. 

While hearing the children's choir sing "Dona Nobis Pacem" (Grant us Peace) during the interfaith prayer service yesterday at Luther College, I began to weep.  Complete joy.  I closed my eyes as the children began to sing the round...all different parts but one song.   I envisioned thousands of children and our next generation on the Mendota Bridge at Bdote Minnesota singing.

This week's meeting is about acknowledging the dignity of each person to worship, to pray, to sing.  The meeting can be a tipping point for hope, for dialogue, for healing.  My simple  prayer this morning is that we will find a way to leave for all children a global home that honors God where all are free to worship Him.