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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There’s always room

Yes. It is 3:25 in the blessed A.M.

I just finished watching Hotel Rwanda. I am tired. My great end of the church aches, really aches.

But for some reason, I put the movie on around 1:00ish and once it started, it simply seemed wrong to stop. I had to watch, even though I have seen it many times. I had to watch.

I had to watch for those people who perished and for those people who were wounded in body, mind, and spirit and who bear still their wounds.

I had to watch for those few people who tried to sound the alarm, for those few people who acted to protect, and for those people whose number is legion  (and I am among them) who failed. Failed to act or acknowledge or even watch as the horror unfolded. Those people who lived the words of the film crew within the film: I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.

For the killed and maimed, the killers and maimers, for the ones who ignored and the ones who were ignored, I had to watch. No choice.

In watching, I realized again what an incredible actor Don Cheadle is. He is gfted, gifted, gifted. But this is also a story and a role that clearly moves Cheadle. Paul Rusesabagina may be An Ordinary Man (his own book title), but he is an incredible character to play. Cheadle knows that plays accordingly.

Other characters are poorly developed.  I knew that. I recognized it again. The actresses and actors who play many of the roles are not given much to work with. But they carry on and Cheadle/Rusesabagina carries the movie.

The story of the events at the Hôtel des Mille Collines in Kigali during those days of hell is an incredibly powerful story, an intensely poignant story, an excruciatingly painful story. It is story filled with evil acts and international indifference and banal inaction. It is a story of common decency that becomes uncommon courage. Even though I know the outline well, it is a story that grips me every time I watch.

And every time, I come a way with something new.

Tonight (this morning?) my learning came at the end of the movie when Cheadle/Rusesabagina makes the observation: There’s always room.

There’s always room. Are the words factual? Did Rusesabagina say that as his family made their way toward Tanzania? Maybe. Maybe not. It really does not matter. Because they are true.

There’s always room. They expressed the truth that came to guide Rusesabagina’s life as he opened the hotel to people fleeing death. Seeing others as sisters and brothers – he could do nothing else but find a way, create a way where there was no way – make room when there appeared to be no room.

There’s always room. They express the truth that guided rescuers during the Holocaust and during times of slaughter and genocide before and since.

There’s always room. They express the truth that could change our lives if we can open ourselves to let them do so.

There’s always room. Are they about hospitality? Certainly. But they point directly to the awareness that we are made for each other. That we are not made to butcher and exclude and deny one another –  physically, emotionally, spiritually, or in any way. That Love has created us to love and that in loving our true humanity (broken and wounded as we are) is revealed and lived and reveled in.

There’s always room. What would it look like to live those words, really live those words – in our homes, our neighborhood, our churches, our places of work, our country, around the world?

It would be challenging. It would be hard. It would be frightening. Difficult. Costly. Painful.

But it also might lead to hope and peace and justice and joy and life, abundant life.

There’s always room. May it be so for me. Ever more, every day, may it be so for me.

‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’ Mark 9:37

See you along the Trail.

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Every now and then it becomes necessary to backtrack on the Trail. We move ahead only by moving back.

Sometimes this is because we are lost. Sometimes it is because we forgot something. Sometimes it is to correct something.

I noticed that a number of my posts had picked up really odd labels. What was worse, when adding new labels they autofilled and expanded the problem.

So this morning, I backtracked. I cleaned them up, deleted them.

In the process, I changed the order of my posts. Strange. But that sort of thing happens when one has no idea what one is truly doing.

If you want to see my most recent posts – which come from the experience of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica – check out this link:

On Twitter, you can check #iepc for posts about the convocation. I tweet as @wmkoenig personally and as @PresbyUN for work.

See you along the Trail.

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Seat 36-G reclines,
invades “my” space,
smacks my chin,
annoys at first,
then slowly,
calls to mind
how deeply my comfort
depends on discomforting others.

11 May 2011
Swiss International Air Lines 022

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