When Peaceful Lives Are Shaken

Originally written in response to the Indonesian tsunami of 2004, this melody was first set to the words of another author (Gareth Hill’s “When Innocence is Fractured”). But the shooting of young Amish schoolchildren in Pennsylvania in two years later left me shaken not by the violence of the natural world, but by the carnage of the human world. The theme of human brutality is not common in current church hymnals, and is frequently missing from our worship as well, unless it happens close to home. 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 (though we might still withhold our trust). Without it, we are trapped by our own anger, and are unable to love.