Peace in the World
Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Reflection: In the 1990s I was the director of a small nonprofit organization that supported asylum seekers who were detained by the immigration authorities. Before the era of Homeland Security, it was known as the “INS,” but many of its practices were the same as those of ICE today. Asylum seekers could be released to the care of our organization once they had legal representation. In practice, that meant that an INS officer would call me to say that “Ahmed,” “Henry” or “Emmanuel” would be on the sidewalk outside the detention center in 30 minutes. Usually I had met them a few weeks earlier through visits to the detention center for Bible Study or worship.
These young men came from the conflict zones and dictatorships of the world: Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zaire. They were often minorities in their countries and had harrowing tales to tell of persecution and escape. They came to live at our house until they had work permits and could survive in the larger community.
The above verse from Hebrews was my guide in this ministry, and indeed we entertained many angels. There were risks involved. I had to make decisions about treatment for mental illness, involve the police in a stabbing, and confront my own inability to help in some situations. But the love, joy knowledge that were brought to me far outweighed those risks. I was taken into the hearts and lives of people from many different cultures and religions, and they were given a peaceful introduction to the country that would become their new home.
Peacemaking involves trusting the stranger, sometimes on the basis of very little knowledge, and sometimes at the risk of both personal and national security. Peacemaking involves heart-opening curiosity about the lives and beliefs of others. It involves shedding the mentality of exceptionalism to which we Americans are so prone. But it brings messages of wisdom, love and gratitude that are lasting.
Practice for Peacemakers: Make the courageous choice to welcome the stranger. Your church can help host an asylum-seeking family, or you can connect with a local organization that does refugee placements yourself. There are many ways to extend grace to those who are finding their way in a strange land for the first time.
Prayer: Great Being, who has created all of us humans, open our hearts to each other that we may dare to risk the peacemaking to which you call us. Amen.
Gay Harter is a retired social worker. She spent the last years of her career as director of the Refugee Immigration Ministry in Boston, MA. She is a member of First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, in Guilford,CT, and co-founder of the UCC Palestine Israel Network.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking