I have come to Cleveland for the weekend to visit my dear friends, Maria Smith and Charlie Hurst. I first met them in Antigua Guatemala in 1987, when we were in language school. We lived with the same host family. After I came home, I lost touch with them. When I was in federal prison in 2007 for crossing the Fort Benning fence, I received a letter from Maria, asking me if I remembered her. I wrote back, and, in 2008, we had a reunion. It was great to reconnect.
Today, Maria and I went to the Social Justice Teach-in at Case Western Reserve University. The teach-in is co-sponsored by the Center for Civic Engagement and Learning and by the Inter-religious Task Force on Central America. We went to two workshops sessions, where we were exposed to different perspectives on social justice.
|The second workshop that Maria Smith and I attended was about the Bible. The presenters were Mike Fiala and Brenna Davis. We learned that the Bible has been used as both a painful source of oppression and a source of liberation. It has been used to justify environmental devastation, as well as to encourage preservation of our environment. We learned that our earth is paradise of water but that there are places on earth that water is very scarce, such as in the middle east.|
"Water is life," Mike said. "This is powerfully true in the middle east. Why would we want to destroy our water paradise?"
When we read the Bible, we can remember our own stories, Mike said. Stories are important. They help us to fight illness and death. They keep our cultures alive. "Without story, we are defenseless," Mike said.
We focused on the story of Jesus feeding the crowds after the beheading of John the Baptist. Jesus had chosen to go to the wilderness alone to fast and pray but he was followed by his disciples and by a large crowd of people. The people wanted to be healed. After a while, the disciples wanted to send the crowds away so that they could go and buy food for themselves. Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd. The disciples said that they didn't have enough food. But, when Jesus insisted that the disciples feed the people, enough food was found for all, with leftovers. After that, the crowds dispersed, and Jesus was able to pray and fast alone in the wilderness.
We acted out the story, and, when we were asked to make sure that everyone in the crowd had food, people took food out of their bags. People shared what they had brought, and everyone ate something.
Comments after the experience:
"God created the earth to give us an abundance."
"We waste 40 percent of our food. Don't waste food."
"Farmers gave out food during the Great Depression."
"Sharing food is a sacred act."
"Are we going to be a community that shares its resources?"
"Asking people how they can participate gives them a sense of ownership, not a feeling that they are the objects of charity."
|Charlie and Maria at Case Western Reserve University|
The program closed with a performance by the Peace Poets of New York. That is a group that was started in 2005. They are a group of artists who use hip hop, poetry, and music to advocate for life. They are based in the Bronx. Today, they sang, rapped, and encouraged audience participation. Members of the Peace Poets are: Luke Nephew (poet journalist, emcee, and organizer), Frank Antonio Lopez (performing artist, educator, and filmmaker), Abraham Velazquez (performer, recording artist, and beat boxer), Emmanuel Candelario (writer, educator, and artist), and Frantz Jerome (emcee, educator, and fiction writer).
For more information about the Peace Poets, check out their website: link to the Peace Poets website.