Monthly Archives: May 2011

More barbed wire

Walls and barbed wire have run through my mind ever since reading Theresa Cho’s post Unveiling the Barbed Wire Divider. I attended the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation as well so the themes were close at hand. Theresa’s words inspired some words from me. And led me to a picture I had taken at the University of the West Indies:

Not sure what to make of the picture – but it is worth pondering.

See you along the Trail.

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Flight 97 to Anchorage has been delayed

Haunted by your absence
I stand,
shifting weight from foot to foot.
As backpack straps dig into my shoulder,
I gaze at people scurrying by,
on their journeys from here to there.
At times my eyes fix upon a stranger,
and as her face blurs before me,
for an instant,
only for an instant,
you, who are I know not where,
are with me.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

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Fragments from the past

For better or for worse, you can be the judge, I will be posting some older material over the next few weeks – pieces written some time ago but never posted.

Because this involves importing existing files, there may be formatting issues. Dates may not be precise; locations may be unclear.

Many of the pieces were written in the Southwest; some during trips to South Africa; others in places I have forgotten. All are fragments from the past.

See you along the Trail.

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Seen and unseen

Some walls we see,
some walls we don’t.
Some walls we build,
stack brick by brick,
lay stone on stone,
I-beam, concrete,
reinforced steel,
and string with care
across the top:
Some walls we build
on lines unreal,
yet drawn on maps;
artificial divides:
this part is ours –
this part, not yours;
belonging marked
with spikes of steel.
Some walls we build
seeking safety,
striving to find
through what we touch:
height, depth, and strength
topped by razors
on coils of steel.
Some walls we build
to know who’s in         
and who is out,
to show who has
and who has not:
divisions made
and  then enforced
through wire with barbs.
Some walls we build
on lines that lie
within ourselves:
gender, class, creed,
nation, sex, race;
judged and measured
by devil’s rope
Some walls we see,
some walls we don’t.Inspiration for this poem came from the reflection Unveiling the Barbed Wire Divide by Theresa Cho.

30 May 2011
New York, New York

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Some walls we see;
some walls we don’t.

Some divide places;
some fragment our hearts.

 30 May 2011
New York, New York

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It was enough

From the Presbyterian News Service:

The Rev. Walter Soboleff, one of the first Alaska Natives ordained to ministry in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) died May 22 in Juneau, Alaska of bone cancer and prostate cancer. He was 102.

We met once. It was a few years back, before Walter had turned 100. I had the privilege to attend the Native American Presbyterian Men’s gathering at Cook College in Tempe. It was humbling to be welcomed into the group.

I remember walking the dormitory hall on the Saturday afternoon. As I so often do, I was checking my BlackBerry.

“Don’t you ever quite working?” one of the men asked.

“He never does,” said another.

I smiled. And only now I confess that I was checking football scores. Why disillusion anyone was my thought at the time. Besides, we were in Arizona. I went with that old axiom: in the West, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”

Turning the corner in the hallway was Walter. We greeted each other briefly. I took about two steps and then stopped in wonder. I stared at the BlackBerry – seeing the device, not the screen. I looked down the hall at Walter, walking away from me, then back at the BlackBerry, then back at Walter.

Amazing as the BlackBerry was, I could only imagine how much more amazing – how much more marvelous – how much more wonder-filled, Walter’s life must have been. What he had seen – and done – and experienced – during his years. I stood for a time in awe, watching as he made his way back to his room.

I stood in awe again that Sunday morning – as Walter preached – his faith, his grace, his courage, his commitment to justice shone through.

Walter lived over 36,500 days. I was blessed to be with him on parts of 3 of those days. I wish it had been more. It was enough.

For Walter’s life and love and witness, thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

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Albanian Muslims and Besa

After yesterday’s post about Hotel Rwanda and the response of Paul Rusesabagina to the genocide in Rwanda, it was very interesting to read about Yad Vashem’s honor of Albanian Muslims as “Righteous Among Nations.” This designation, the Jewish people’s highest honor, is awarded to those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.

The article, which I discovered thanks to my friend Margaret Aymer, tells I story I did not know:

When the Axis Powers invaded Albania in 1939, the good people of Albania refused to release the names of their Jewish citizens. They provided false papers and helped their Jewish population hide amidst the general public.

They were so effective in their efforts that Albania became a safe haven for Jews fleeing other regimes. Albania is one of the very few countries in Europe- and the only one under Nazi dominance- whose Jewish population rose during World War II. 

Not a single Jewish life was lost to the Nazis in Albania.

Why did this happen? Yad Vashem concludes that the reason was rooted in the faith of Albania’s Muslims:

The remarkable assistance afforded to the Jews was grounded in Besa, a code of honor, which still today serves as the highest ethical code in the country. Besa, means literally “to keep the promise.” One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family. Apparently this code sprouted from the Muslim faith as interpreted by the Albanians. 

Besa in Albania.

Making room in Rwanda.

Thanks be to God.

See you along the Trail.

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