(Prayer offered at a Peace and Justice gathering of students and faculty at La Salle Academy on Thursday evening, 12 May 2016)
Let us remember we are in the holy presence of God.
Our world isn’t a perfect place, bottom line. In a school like La Salle, many of us are sheltered from harsher realities that others face, and it is all too easy not to think about them. However, I’d like to ask you to step out of your own shoes right now, and into those of another. Put yourself in the place of a refugee. Imagine losing your home, your livelihood and any semblance of stability. You would want help.
Imagine the feeling of being rejected – mostly because of how you look, not how you act. How would you feel if you were deprived of your humanity and your rights based on your religion? When we label people, it becomes easy to subjugate and dehumanize them. We used our differences to justify enslaving black people, to justify imprisonment of innocent Japanese citizens, and to deny gay people rights afforded to other members of society. If we allow this kind of division, the peaceful society we claim to wish for will never be realized. And despite the fact we’ll use people who look, behave or worship differently than us as a scapegoat, it will be our own fault.
When we don’t recognize the common thread that runs through every single person – our humanity – it is too easy to grow complacent about events in faraway places, or conditions hidden behind walls in poorer neighborhoods. Let me ask you. If your mother died in Syria, and was labeled “collateral damage”, would you find that acceptable? Would that be “necessary” to you? If not, why are we okay when it is somebody else’s parents, somebody else’s child, somebody else’s life?
To actualize peace, we need to recognize unity despite our differences. I’m not saying that we should dissolve our differences; on the contrary, they should be celebrated. But we need to become tolerant of the things that make us unique and individual. We simply need to recognize the dignity, humanity and sacredness which everybody possesses. By standing together, whether we’re black or white, straight or gay, rich or poor, we can strive for the betterment of society that is in everyone’s best interests.
Jesus taught us to follow his example, and love as he loved us. Muhammad called us to peace when he said “if you kill one other person, it is as though you have killed all of them.” How can we follow in the example of these kinds of great people if we foster hatred? Condone killing? Become complacent with the suffering of our brothers and sisters? We can’t. If we want to strive for the best we can be, we need to be peaceful. And peace means tolerance.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle, pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts, forever.
Matthew Calise–Class of 2016