Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Advent Peace Candle

A Monthly Message from the Vermont Conference 
Department of Mission's Just Peace Advocates

No Justice, No Peace

When Bethany Church (Montpelier) visits its sister parish in El Salvador, the travelers learn that it's a country of martyrs. Among them are four U.S. Maryknoll nuns who were raped and killed, left in a shallow grave in an isolated spot where today stands a small chapel. It's a place where our hearts break and we sing "Won't You Let Me Be Your Servant" and "Dona Nobis Pacem."

We also learn that we were complicit in those deaths. For 12 years our tax dollars fueled the Salvadoran military in the civil war that claimed the lives of 75,000 civilians. And at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia, we provided training in low-intensity warfare to the perpetrators of torture, disappearance and murder in El Salvador.      

The Maryknollers' crime was to stand with the poor in a country where wealth was concentrated in the hands of a few powerful families willing to do anything to keep it that way. Every December Bethany Church remembers the women who lost their lives on December 2, 1980. We are comforted by their deep faith and afflicted by the challenge of their witness for justice and peace. We wonder what God might ask us to risk in the cause of justice.

At Christmas, when we welcome the Prince of Peace again, may we recall how Jesus described his ministry: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free . . ."  Remembering the martyrs of El Salvador and of so many other places and times, we must ask ourselves, "If we are for peace, are we also for justice?"

--Theresa Lever,  
Bethany United Church of Christ, Montpelier and  
Chair, Dept. of Mission, Just Peace Advocates