We Weep and Then We Work

December 4, 2015
By Rev. Victor Kazanjian for United Religions Initiative

Victor KazanjianThe world continues to weep daily for the senseless violence that so devastates families and communities. Today it is San Bernardino, California. Yesterday it was Cameroon, and Jerusalem, before that Baghdad, Beirut, Bethlehem, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Paris. And tomorrow…? The daily violence reflected in these and so many more incidents is deeply shocking and stirs up powerful feelings of fear, anger, outrage and sadness. The questions swirl, and consume our thoughts. Why? Who? How? It is natural to feel this way. Violence is horrible and the purpose of violence is to horrify and paralyze.

I have seen a lot of violence in my life, from gang violence in the South Bronx to communal violence in Gujarat, India. And as part of a global community of peace-builders, I hear daily stories of violence; both the stories that captivate the media, and the stories that we never see and yet are no less tragic.

URI - ComfortMy own practice in these moments is to weep and then to work. In weeping we open ourselves to the depth of sadness that incidents of violence evoke. Grief, real grief, is such an important response to the loss of life and devastation of the world around us. Through our tears, we connect to those who suffer, and we humanize a situation caused by the dehumanizing actions of others.

If we do not allow ourselves to feel this sadness, to really grieve, then our fears and pain turn instead to grievance. Who is to blame? How can I get my revenge? The world seems locked in an endless cycle of grievance. Grievance is the fuel of terrorists. One act of violence fuels another act of violence and the cycle continues, day after day, generation after generation.

But we who work for peace are dedicated to breaking this cycle. First we weep, for those whose lives are lost. We weep for their families and friends and communities who grieve. We weep and then we work. Our sadness leads not to paralysis, but to a deeper commitment to work for peace in our communities, in our countries and in our world.

We people of diverse religions, spiritual expression and Indigenous traditions throughout the world… Our work is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation. Our work is to end religiously motivated violence. Our work is to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings. This is our work, and no criminal, cowardly, dehumanizing act of terror will keep us from this work.

We weep and then we work.