Tag Archives: war

Awareness

At times, we participate in profound moments unaware. Only in retrospect do we realize the significance of what we are a part.

Other times, we know – at least partly. We may not know all the details and nuances, but we recognize that matters of deep import surround us and we play our tiny part.

IMG_0247 (800x600)This past week, I had the privilege to accompany Dr. Mary Mikhael as she made an amazing witness for peace and justice in Syria. Mary is from the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.  Until 2011, she served as the president of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut. After her retirement,the church has named her their interpreter and communicator in this time of tragedy and crisis for the people of Syria.

In that role, she traveled to the United States for the month of September. She spent last week in New York where I had the privilege to accompany her as she told the story of her church and her people, as she witnessed to her faith, as she advocated for peace and justice.

Mary went to Washington, DC on Tuesday. The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness arranged for her to speak at their Second Tuesday Briefing and to meet with aides of five elected officials and a State Department official.

Wednesday saw her in New York with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. We did extensive video work with my friend and colleague David Barnhart and my new friend Scott Lansing. The video links will be shared when they are posted. That afternoon, Mary spoke to a public event attended by church members, UN agency staff members, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations.

On Thursday, Mary met with staff members of two Permanent Missions to the UN – missions that sit on the Security Council. She also met with representatives of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Syrian Crisis Core Group made up of UN agencies working in Syria.

As we rode uptown toward the place where Mary was staying, her relief was obvious. She had witnessed well and she was tired.

Then the phone of my colleague Ryan Smith buzzed. An offer arrived for Mary to meet with a representative of the  Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict on Friday.

“Would you do one more meeting?” Ryan asked.

No hesitation. Mary replied, “How can I say no?”

Ryan and I looked at each other. “You can say no because you are tired and this is one extra meeting and you had other plans.”

“How can I say no?” Mary repeated.

We conceded. “You can’t.”

“But can it be early in the day?” Mary asked.

Ryan confirmed the meeting and on Friday morning, it took place.

Mary and I then went uptown and for a moment said farewell. We will meet again, I am sure.

I give thanks for the time we shared.

And I gave thanks for Dr. Mary Mikhael.

And I gave thanks for her witness, her courage, her grace, and her faith as she told stories of horror and proclaimed hope.

And I give thanks for the small role I played in these profound moments.

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, United Nations

Ghosts of Gettysburg

Through early morning mists they march
across the fields of green,
fields red-stained by their life blood
when they were young.
No long range kills,
no smart bombs then;
just frightened, courageous
too-young men
who,
for cause
country
comrades,
engaged each other
face to face
and
hand to hand,
performing acts of
unspeakable horror,
incredible valor,
absolute futility
until the arms of Mars
did embrace and claim them.

23 August 2002
The Shire, Louisville

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Filed under National Park, Poem

The responsibility of knowing

“Thank you for listening to me,” she said. Her eyes held mine as firmly as her hand clasped mine. “Thank you for listening.”

Listen I had as she spoke to me and to others in the UN community gathered for a reception for her and her colleagues from UNRWA in Syria. She spoke.

She spoke of life as a Palestine refugee. Her parents driven from their home as children and arriving in Syria to live supported by UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. There, in a camp, she was born.

She spoke of insecurity and not belonging.

She spoke of working for UNRWA – and caring for over 500,000 Palestine refugees find themselves in Syria.

She spoke of the conflict in Syria – a conflict that did not involve the Palestinian refugees until the last quarter of 2012. Then the conflict began to penetrate their communities and the Palestine refugees came under huge pressure that has increased.

She spoke of Palestine refugees driven from where they live – with nowhere else to go. Lebanon can be a place of refuge, but the cost of living makes life difficult for people who live so close to the edge.

She spoke of young Palestine refugees forced to choose, taken, swept into the maelström of war.

She spoke of being displaced. Three times. Since December. Her husband has lost his job and gone to Lebanon with their two older sons – for their safety, while she remained behind in Syria with their younger sons and her work.

She spoke of colleagues who refuse to obey emergency messages and come into work any way because they recognize the needs of the Palestine refugees and want to do what they can to help. Sometimes they, sometimes she, spends the night at work.

She spoke of courage and grace.

She spoke of trying to raise enough funds to provide the Palestine refugees $1 a day for six months.

She spoke of what should be – Palestinians living in Palestine – and until then, what needs to be – the international community fulfilling its obligations to protect the Palestine refugees.

She spoke. I listened.

As I said good-by, she thanked me for listening.

I recognize the power of listening and the ministry of presence. I seek to practice it. I encourage others to do so.

My first response was to say, “You are welcome. You are very welcome.”

I meant it. But it did not seem enough. I went on, “Thank you. You honor me by sharing your stories with me. I am so grateful.”

I listened. But I will do more. My new friend graced me with her story and her pain. Now I know and I bear the responsibility of knowing. I carry her and the Palestine refugees with me. I will remember. I will share what I heard and understood. I will pray. And I will find ways to act.

If you have read this far – you too have listened. You know. You bear the responsibility of knowing. What will you do?

See you along the Trail.

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Filed under Current Events, Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, United Nations

Drones

Unmanned they prowl
across the sky.

While leaders pose
to justify.

Bombs may be smart,
yet children die.

Let’s also Remember the 176 children Killed by US Drones by Juan Cole

Shire on the Hudson
12 January 2012

 

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Filed under Current Events, New York, Poem

Heart sore

Heart sore
I sit and watch
I listen and pray
I write and call
as once more
rockets fly
jets roar
dealing
death
pain
grief
destruction.

Heart sore
I sit and watch
I listen and pray
I write and call
as people kill
as people die.

Heart sore
I sit and watch
I listen and pray
I write and call
impotent,
incompetent
in safety
in privilege.

Heart sore.

15 November 2012
Shire on the Hudson

 

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Filed under Current Events, Poem

Spring, 1864

Spring’s first blush
kisses me as I push my way
through the door,
onto the porch;
my old hips groan louder than the hinges.

One, two, three painful steps, I shuffle
to the post where I stop and lean
as I try to catch my breath.

Air fills my lungs anew,
as my gaze falls upon the field:
unplowed,
unworked,
untouched it stands.
Tears well in my eyes –
it will stay that way this year.

My sons,
my proud, precious sons
will not plow or
work or
touch the field
or any field
this year
or year.

They forever lie,
in peaceful repose I hope,
in some
unknown, unnamed field:
some
God-forsaken,
God-blessed,
God-damned,
Virginian field,
victims, as are we all,
of this unending war.

Never will my boys
love or
play or
work this field again.
In peaceful rest,
they forever lie –
so I hope,
so I pray.

From the South,
a crow flies into sight,
its raucous call
breaks my reverie.

I rub one gnarled hand
against another –
hands twisted by life will never again hold a plow –
and I wonder if
down in Virginia, where Spring has surely come,
some spent, used-up man, some grieving father,
whose sons marched away to bugle’s call under flapping banners,
now gazes on a field
unplowed,
unworked,
untouched,
and remembers, wonders, weeps.

with thanks to Don Shriver
DL 5759
5 October 2012

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The Second Meeting – advance screening

Check out this movie that my friends at the Center at West Park will screen.

The Center at West Park

Image

NEW YORK, NY (September 24, 2012)– The advanced screening of a new documentary by Optimistic Film, The Second Meeting, will debut in New York City on Saturday, October 13, 2012, at West Park Presbyterian Church. Immediately following, there will be a panel discussion featuring the subjects of the film, U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Colonel Dale Zelko and Yugoslav missile officer Colonel Zoltan Dani.

The Second Meeting follows Lt. Col Zelko’s journey back to Serbia to meet Col. Dani, 12 years after the first meeting of the pilot and missile officer who commanded the Yugoslav missile battery that shot down Zelko’s F117A Stealth fighter in 1999. “I had the remarkable opportunity to have a second chance at experiencing Serbia and her people and I will forever be deeply grateful, enriched, and blessed by it,” said Lt. Col Zelko of the experience.

The advanced screening will be the first showing…

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