January 7, 2008
LOUISVILLE — As I write this column, the Iowa caucuses are set to take place. What seems to be the longest Presidential campaign ever is about to enter an important stage as voters begin to make public their choice for the person who will fill the Oval Office next January.
As negative as I fear the campaign will most likely become before it’s over, it pales drastically in comparison to other parts of the world that are also in election seasons.
The assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto just days before a scheduled election is one heart-wrenching example. The violence has ended, according to PC(USA) mission coworkers Robert Johnson, Jr. and Marianne Vermeer, but the tension and uncertainty continue.
They note, “As always, the common people — the huge majority who would never harm a neighbor under any circumstance — are the ones who suffered. They are the ones who always need to be borne in mind, and held up in prayer, whenever you hear about political violence.”
And there is the alarming, rapid rise of violence in Kenya in the wake of that country’s presidential election. This week came news of dozens of men, women, and children that were killed as they sought shelter in a church.
As with Pakistan, the situation in Kenya is alarming. (Coincidentally, Presbyterian churches are among the largest Protestant denominations in both countries.) I was in Kenya just two months ago attending the first-ever Christian Global Forum. With the theme, “Our Journey with Jesus Christ, the Reconciler,” this event was deemed an unprecedented gathering of Christians that ran the gamut of geographies, denominations, and traditions.
In a formal message to Christian brothers and sisters worldwide, forum participants said of the experience, “We have been invited into a common journey of faith with confidence in the guidance of Christ’s life-giving Spirit. We have been encouraged to move out of the familiar ground on which we normally stand, to meet each other on a common ground where mutual trust might flourish and where we might be empowered to celebrate, enter into dialogue and act together to the glory of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
What a stark contrast between that global forum in November and the violence occurring now!
More than ever, I hope and pray that the celebration of the Prince of Peace having come into the world at Christmas will usher in a more peace-filled world.
Friends, as deadly violence tops the headlines in this new year, our witness to God’s peace and justice through Jesus Christ must be ever-present. And my hope is that we, like those at the Christian Global Forum, will join together in a common journey of faith, so that our unity in Christ might help bring to fruition God’s shalom.