Tag Archives: child soldiers

10 Dec #Cry #AdventWord 2018

10 Dec #growThe Advent devotional project, #AdventWord  is offered by the Society of St John the Evangelist. Each day a word is provided and participants are invited to share images and/or reflections and to use hashtags so our reflections may be included in an Advent Calendar with others from around the world.

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In This Place

This is the manuscript I took into the pulpit at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church today. The preached sermon varied from the manuscript in some instances as the preaching event took place.

People often ask if I miss serving as a pastor in a congregation. I reply that I miss the community, the shared life. But I feel called to my work at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. I make mistakes; challenges and frustrations arise, but I believe I am where God has called me.

And then come those Sundays when I have the privilege to take part in the sacrament of baptism. And in the joy and wonder of the moment, I feel a tug to parish ministry.

Because I knew I would have that privilege this morning, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about children. Of course along with the filled expectation of the sacrament, this week has also brought tragedy and sorrow and hope.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Israeli children who listen for sirens and take refugee in bomb shelters.
Palestinian children killed upon a beach, under the crushing weight of collapsed homes, on the streets of Gaza.
Israeli and Palestinian children bound together in the violent spiral, not of their making, of occupation and resistance.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Nigerian girls abducted from schools and homes, wrenched from their families, held by a rebel group.
Children of Sudan’s Nuba Mountains who huddle in caves as bombs dropped by the government rain around them.
South Sudanese children whose stomachs knot from hunger and malnutrition that threaten their lives.
Syrian children caught in a chaotic cross fire.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children forced to carry guns larger than they are tall in combat.
Children who breathe air-filled with dust and sometimes toxic gases in mines for gold.
Children used, violated, and exploited.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children fleeing rape and gang recruitment and violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and parts of Guatemala who make their way to the United States to be placed in detention centers where they may experience cramped cells without enough food, beds, toilets or showers.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children who lost a parent when a plane went down over the eastern Ukraine.
Children with AIDS or whose parents have AIDS whose lives will be affected by the loss of the researchers and scientists on that plane.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Children in our country whose lives are constricted and diminished by racism.
Children bullied because of their sexual orientation.
Children who know violence in their homes, their schools, and their communities.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

New babies, long-awaited, welcomed, cherished.
Children who receive encouragement, affection, support, and nurture.
Children who enjoy life, bring delight to friends, and share love with family members.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have wept.
Sweet tears of joy and grace.
Hot, bitter tears of grief and pain and anger.
Purging, cleansing tears that have renewed my commitment.

And I have prayed.
For the circumstances that wound children.
For the children. By name when possible.

Prayer opens me to God.

Prayer also opens me to the children and circumstances for which I pray. It binds me to the children be they in Damascus or Detroit. It calls me to commit to act on behalf of the children for whom I pray.

Prayer makes and nurtures the relationships, key to pursuing justice. And prayer for justice and wholeness in one setting draws me out of myself to experience anew the connections between all forms of injustice. It reminds me of the interdependence of people and life. It transforms me as it leads me to pray—and then act—more broadly than I would have otherwise done.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have advocated with government officials and others who are in positions to act to reshape realities for children.
And I have made contributions to groups caring for children in the United States and abroad.
And I have invited and challenged my family and friends to learn and pray and act.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

And I have come to this place, this sanctuary, this congregation.

I come to stand in community. For community is essential to confront the realities of the world. Only together can we stand against the forces that violate children; alone we cannot stand.

I come to sing songs, break bread, share the cup.

I come to celebrate with a family as they present their children for baptism. Affirming their faith in Jesus Christ in a world broken, fearful, and frightening. Proclaiming hope. Sharing love.

I come to remember the grace of God in Jesus Christ. In ways that may surprise us, frighten us, awe us, God is at work. Here. Now. In this community.

When I experience the presence of God, I join Jacob in his affirmation of wonder and faith: “Surely God is in this place — and I did not know it!”

And knowing that God is in this place, reminds me, fills me with hope that God in Jesus Christ is in all places. Even in places where heartache and horror seem strong; even in places where violations occur; even in places where people and relationships are most badly broken and fear and wrong seems strongest, God is at work.

In this place, I am reminded that God is at work in all places. And that sustains and challenges me to look for how God is at work and, as the Holy Spirit gives me grace, to join in that work.

Children have been in my heart and on my mind this week.

Faith in God in Christ have put them there.

And in this place, God invites us all to join in caring for the children. The children of this congregation. The children of this community. All the children, all God’s children of the world. May we hear and respond.

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Filed under Current Events, New York, Worship

Advent 22: Sign


31 May 2013
Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations

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The Trail led to Warner Memorial Presbyterian Church in Kensington, Maryland this weekend.

Today the congregation held an intergenerational all-church retreat. I had the privilege to help lead the retreat working with gracious and talented staff members Jan Moody, John Horman, and Kirby Lawrence Hill.

About thirty-five people participated in the retreat. And they participated fully.

We considered the topic of why and how followers of Jesus engage in witness and advocacy in the public arena, that part of life where the decisions that shape and guide our common life.

Red Hands WarnerI am grateful

  • for the welcome I received
  • that thirty-five people were willing to give up the better part of a Saturday
  • that the participants were willing to try what I suggested
  • for the participants’ creativity
  • for how working together spurred greater creativity and deeper insights
  • for acting and writing and directing skills tapped as the participants created presentations for each other
  • for relationships made and deepened
  • that participants made over fifty Red Hands to call for an end to the exploitation of children as solders

I am grateful.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Human Rights, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, Travel

Study war no more

It is found in the United Nations building, part of the display about the UN’s work on militarism.

Each time I see it,  the picture touches a chord of hope in my heart. My soul sings.

We can lay our weapons down – by the riverside – in the desert – on the street corners – wherever we may be – we can lay our weapons down. And study war no more. And begin the hard work of building a just peace.

Yesterday I toured the UN. And the picture carried even deeper meaning than usual. The International Criminal Court had announced its first verdict ever. In that decision, the court found Thomas Lubanga Dyilo guilty of conscripting, enlisting, and actively using children under the age of 15 in hostilities in the Ituri district of the Democratic Republic of the Congo during 2002 and 2003.

The court’s decision  underscored the picture’s meaning. The picture underscored the court’s decision.

Art and the judicial process intertwining to proclaim hope.

See you along the Trail.

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Enforce the law!

Call on President Obama to enforce U.S. legislation related to the use of children as soldiers!

The U.S. Child Soldier Prevention Act addresses the issue of children in situations of armed conflict. The act seeks encourage governments to disarm, demobilize and rehabilitate children who have been used as soldiers by government forces and government-supported militias.

Using the Department of State’s Country Reports on Human Rights as a barometer, this bill would place limits on the provision of U.S. International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing and other defense-related assistance in our foreign operations programs for countries in violation of the bill’s standards.

However, this act has been waived in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). President Obama could take steps to prohibit military assistance to the DRC until the government meets specific benchmarks.  These benchmarks should include: 1) demonstrating that it no longer recruits child soldiers; 2) showing concrete progress in demobilizing or releasing children from existing forces; and 3)engaging in credible efforts to render persons suspected of recruiting child soldiers to justice.

Call on President Obama to enforce U.S. legislation related to the use of children as soldiers!

I did. Will you?

See you along the Trail.

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Life ended
and the nightmare began
when they came,
the so-called soldiers;
came and took her,
took and armed her,
armed and used her,
used and raped her.

Life began,
new possibility,
when she learned
a child she carried;
stirring in her womb,
crying at his birth,
nursing at her breast,
laughing at her side.

Life ended
in another nightmare.
Again came
the so-called soldiers;
though loved by her so dearly,
tormented by the children,
rejected by the village,
her young son went with them.

23 May 2011
University of the West Indies
Kingston, Jamaica


Filed under Poem