Written on: November 3, 2014
Friday October 24 was United Nations Day. I was not yet walking or talking when the United Nations Charter was ratified, bringing the U.N. in a sense, into existence in 1945. The United States was still reeling from the horror of the 2nd World War, but I slept peacefully in my crib, unaware of the world turmoil and fears which had been the backdrop of my mother’s pregnancy and delivery of me before Christmas of the year before.
I was born into a time of peace. albeit a peace achieved at a terrible cost. The United Nations was born of idealism – the dream of settling disputes through negotiation, of de-escalating conflicts rather than allowing them to escalate into war, the dream of nations cooperating with each other to bring about more justice, less poverty, more equality. In the Hebrew scriptures or Old Testament as Christians call it, Isaiah writes of such a dream. “The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.“
Would that the dream were realized. Although we have not entered into a third world war, we have seen precious few eras of peace. Rather, it seems that there has never been a time of complete global peace. Often enough, we have been engaged in wars and military conflicts ourselves in many different parts of the world, sometimes directly, other times in more subtle ways – Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Panama, Persian Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan – to name just a few. Still, there are signs of hope and indications of progress, if we are willing to look for these.
Providing food aid, aid to refugees, protection of children, helping to guarantee free elections in many nations, fighting AIDS and other diseases, now including Ebola, bringing issues such as climate change and women’s rights to the forefront — these complement the successful settlement of conflicts through mediation that receive too little media attention. Are these not ways that demonstrate the dreamy possibility of wolves getting along without eating lambs and little children leading us to stop the hurting and the killing?
Recently I had someone whom I love dearly tearfully ask me if I still believed in God. She said she wanted to keep on believing but the awful challenges she had been facing for so long had her on the verge of giving up on God. My Christian faith is based on a really wild belief — that the Holy One of God (the Christ) who was killed and buried is somehow alive, raised from the dead, and still powerfully present among us. The Christian “hero” suffered and died, bringing God out of the clouds, so to speak, and into our real lives. For me, though, sometimes this is a belief that is easier to hold onto than the dream of the United Nations charter at the global and national level and the dream of Isaiah at the level of my own family and friends’ suffering and sometimes seemingly irreconcilable conflicts.
Still, in the end, my answer to this loved one is “Yes, I believe.” I believe in God. I believe in God’s power to empower us to create a more compassionate world, to find a way to heal hurts and reconcile family members. I believe in the dream. I celebrate the possibility of “united” nation and “united” nations and peoples. I’m no longer in my crib, oblivious of the challenge and the suffering. No, with the United Nations, I’ll soon be 70. Better get at it – lots of work is needed to make the dream come true.
By: Sister Eileen White, GNSH. Sister Eileen works at Dawn’s Place, a residence for female victims of human trafficking located in Philadelphia. She is a regular contributor to From a Faith Perspective.
This first appeared as a column for From a Faith Perspective, published in the Bucks County Courier Times