When peaceful lives are shaken

Originally written in response to the Indonesian tsunami of December 2004 this song was first set to the words of another author (see Gareth Hill’s “When Innocence is Fractured”). But the shooting of young Amish schoolchildren in Pennsylvania in October 2006 left me shaken not by the violence of the natural world, but by the carnage of the human world. The topic of human violence is hard to find in current church hymnals, and is often missing from our worship as well - other than to offer a few words of prayer as a nod to its existence. It seems so difficult to explain, let alone deal with such evil that we often just ignore it. That makes healing more difficult. Although each year seems to bring reports of more mass killings of young innocents, the Amish schoolchildren tragedy particularly disturbed me. Two hundred years ago, my ancestors (who were Mennonites) came to Canada from this area of the U.S. In sharp contrast to the violence of the attacks, both Amish and Mennonite faiths are pacifist and they would rather go to jail (or worse) than take up arms in war. Unfortunately, seeking peace does not always offer refuge from violence for its proponents. Yet if we do not promote peace, the violence becomes all the stronger and we become more hard-hearted ourselves. That’s where the forgiveness shown by the Amish community becomes important (even if we might still withhold our trust), for without it, we are trapped by our own anger, and are unable to love.