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Huntington, IN Walks and Proclaims a Day of Peace

Posted by Erin Bechtol

On Monday, September 18 the Victory Noll Center and Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters celebrated the Week of Actions by signing a “Huntington Day of Peace” proclamation for Thursday, September 21.

As part of their regular Wednesdays for the World prayer service, the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters joined the nationwide Campaign Nonviolence to protest racism, war, poverty, and environmental destruction. As part of the service, Sisters and guests viewed a slideshow bringing to light the worst of what is happening today, but also reminding viewers of the best of what the world is capable of achieving.

The OLVM Sisters invited all to join their Campaign Nonviolence service, which was held on September 20, in the Archbishop Noll Memorial Chapel on the Victory Noll campus in Huntington.

Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters is a religious community of women dedicated to serving the poor in the name of Christ. Founded in 1922 by Father John Joseph Sigstein, the members of the Victory Noll community minister to those in need.

On the International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, organizers with the Victory Noll Center held their Walk for Peace.  They began at the Rotary Park in downtown Huntington.  From there they stopped at 5 stations throughout the walk that addressed economic and political injustices, war, racism and inequality. They also had a communal time of prayer/reflection.  Over 60 individuals joined their walk  with a fantastic group of  inter-generational participation including 20 Huntington North Students from the Diversity Club, who also made Peace pins and posters, several families with young children, and several OLVM Sisters.

Jenna Strick with the Victory Noll Center also said, “We had a Huntington University student film group on site filming and interviewing Walk For Peace participants! This same group is producing a documentary on ‘The History of Race & Diversity in Huntington,’ and it will debut in December.”

Below the photos of their week of events you can read the script they used for each stop during their peace walk!


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Walk for Peace script for each stop along the route.

Park – What is peace?
When we talk about peace, we often mean it to be the absence of something negative. No fear. No violence. No striving. No worrying. No lacking. But peace is more than absence. Peace is the presence of what we truly need, the deep things that our hearts cry out for. Trust. Kindness. Belonging. Sufficiency. Generosity. Purpose. Harmony. Knowing and understanding of one another. It is rare to know peace without these things. In other words, peace is a byproduct.

In the Christian tradition, peace is the byproduct of justice. And when Christians talk about justice, what they really mean is “a state of right relatedness between all things”. It’s the hungry being fed, it’s the powerful leading with integrity, it’s the poor being treated with dignity, it’s the earth treated responsibility. It’s turning away from seeing our neighbor with an evil eye – racism, sexism, homophobia, white supremacy. Justice is the end of crippling debts. Justice is parents enjoying their children. Justice is fair work for fair pay. Justice is the cessation of war.

There’s a Hebrew word that captures what this justice looks like – Shalom. Shalom encapsulates a peace that comes about when all things come into harmony with the creator and other created things. At the heart of justice isn’t retribution for tresspasses, it’s not about people getting what they deserve for the wrongs they’ve done. No, at the heart of justice are all things being the way they are supposed to be. Shalom justice is the kind that makes space for the thriving of one another.

Peace is not simply achieved by eradicating threats or distancing ourselves from those we don’t understand or silencing those we disagree with. We might think that peace comes about once everyone thinks, talks and looks like ourselves. We call this practice violence. At the heart of violence is a myth, the false belief that preserving and promoting ourselves or our way of life is more important than anything else – and if we have to make others shoulder the burden, that’s okay. And violence goes beyond throwing punches and dropping bombs, violence – if we aren’t diligent – can become a whole way of life.

This evening we walk to be diligent. We will walk around our city, stopping along the way to reflect on how the community we call home can move away from violence, towards justice, and towards peace. We will walk in silence, leaving space for prayer and contemplation. May our imaginations be filled, may our minds be opened, and may our hearts be softened. Let us walk, for peace.

Our Common Life Together – How justice can bring about peace
Each time we stop as we walk this evening, we’ll reflect on an area of our community where justice is needed to bring about peace. We do so not to condemn, but to confess that we are a community of people who do injustice, even when we try not to. We confess not to be ashamed of ourselves, but to be honest where we need to grow.

Our courthouse symbolizes our society, our shared life together and so many things we collectively value and hold dear. From the laws that we draft, pass and carry out, to how we spend our tax money, to how we honor those who have become victims of war, this place is close to the heart of our community. This courthouse is a symbol of justice. It is a tool for bringing about right relatedness. It is the place where justice is championed and upheld. But we have to confess that our communal sense of justice is far from perfect and thus the presence of peace is often fleeting. We are a people quick and glad to pass judgement, doubt victims and assume the worst in one another.

We often trust that violence can and will deliver us. We trust that locking up the criminal will lead to deep transformation, but it rarely does. We trust that waging war will somehow bring an end to bloodshed, but it has yet to do so. We trust that purging our streets of the sick and the homeless will gift us with peace, but it cannot. In the past our town has chased African-Americans out of town, kept surveillance on them and even petitioned for their removal from this city, trusting that preserving whiteness could deliver Huntington from all its problems. We find it easier to be suspicious of women than to believe that men are capable of heinous acts of sexual assault.

The journey towards being a community of justice and peace is not made easy by simply electing the right officials, supporting the right party, or passing the right laws. Justice is done and peace is achieved when we commit ourselves our righteousness, When everyday we look at how we can care for one another, support one another, listen to one another and advocate for one another. Men and women who do so – whether in office or otherwise – are key to bringing an end to violence and the flourishing of peace.

Let us consider how we can be a people of justice.

Our Environment – How creation care can bring about peace
Whether we are aware of it or not, we are deeply connected to everything around us. Our existence is tied deeply to our home, the earth. We cannot live without air in our lungs, water on our lips and food in our bellies. And although we might think that our sustenance comes from Kroger, it comes from elsewhere first. We’re often disconnected from our environment, to the point it becomes difficult to see how connected we really are. And because this connection is obscured, it becomes difficult to be aware of the violence we inflict on the earth, the burden it carries for our thriving.

The founding of Huntington on a river is no accident. Humans have always be drawn to live near sources of water, such a necessary resources for drinking, fishing and traveling. But we’d be remiss to say we’ve treated this river as well as it has treated us. From agricultural run off to litter, this river is far from the lifespring it once was. It has bore the burden of rampant consumption, careless disposal and farming practices that might not be all that sustainable. There are countless other examples of not taking care of the earth as we ought to around us – the draining of our wetlands, the leveling of mountains for the pursuit of coal, the stripping of the topsoil for ever-bigger yields.

The scars of violence inflicted on the earth sometime take generations to show and we can easily become normalized to trash lined streets and clear-cut forests. The violence we inflict upon the earth is not bore only by the ground and the water, but all living things that call this place home – including us. From illnesses caused and worsened by pollution, to the warming of the earth and its effects on the weather and the seas, harming the earth ultimately means harming ourselves. Let us be encouraged by the words of Wendell Berry:

Ask the questions that have no answers. Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias. Say that your main crop is the forest that you did not plant, that you will not live to harvest. Say that the leaves are harvested when they have rotted into the mold. Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Let us consider how we can live without violence toward the earth.

Our Economy – How the marketplace can bring about peace
We stand in front of this empty storefront to remember that violence is not always malicious or insidious. It is just as often thoughtless and careless. What we do with our money matters, even though we don’t always realize it. The normalized systems of economic oppression we take part in are daily, hourly, and moment to moment.
We can often cast the burden of our thriving onto those who sew our clothes in Southeast Asia for little payment, or onto those who build smartphones in China for exhaustingly long workdays, or onto those who labor in fields across America without the dignity of legal protection. What we do with our money matters.

We are also a people who are heavily indebted. Americans combine for nearly $1 trillion in Credit Card debt. Debt and borrowing is so much a part of our lives that it becomes the standard way of making ends meet. And while this works out fine for many, it’s a suffocating cycle for others, creating endless burdens of being bound to making payments. The English word “economy” derives from two Greek words: “oikos” and “nomos”. The ancient Greek word “oikos” referred to a large estate. “Nomos” derived from the word “nemein” which meant “to manage or distribute”. An economy is simply the management and distribution of resources in an estate or community.

As members of this community, we must remember that we get to choose what kind of shared economy we wish to live in. We get to choose how to distribute our resources. We get to choose to recognize our own privilege, in whatever form that takes. We get to choose empathy when beholding the financial plight of our minimum wage earners, and we get to say NO to an attitude of resentment of those who earn more than us. When we hold our neighbors to the standards of universal laws of competition, we normalize violence. However, when we recognize that we have ALL inherited a system that rewards greed and accumulation of wealth, we have taken the first step towards making economic peace with our neighbors. There is no room for a zero sum game in a community who cares for each other.

Let us consider how we can be free from violence in the marketplace.

Our Own Ignorance – How education can bring about peace
If you’re familiar with the story of the ancient Hebrews, you’re well aware of the most central story of their heritage. The Hebrews were an enslaved people, in bondage in Egypt to Pharaoh. The Hebrews called out for deliverance from Egypt, and God heard them. God revealed himself to Moses and gave him words to speak the powerful to lead his people out of Egypt and into a new place – one where peace comes about from reign of justice and mercy. Muslims and Jews and Christians all remember this event by the same name: the Exodus.

These last few moments we’ve spent together may have been burdensome. When I was preparing for this I found myself deeply aware of how much injustice I participate in, how much violence I comply with, and how much peace I long for. But there is reason to be hopeful. Across United State there are more than 1000 public actions being held in conjunction with Campaign Nonviolence to rally people to become more aware and more committed to practicing and promoting nonviolence.

When the Hebrews left Egypt, they didn’t get to their destination immediately – they wandered for 40 years in the desert. It seems appropriate that we’ve done some wandering of our own this evening. Becoming just and peaceful people is a journey, one that requires commitment to learning, changing and being bold enough to name our own ignorance. So it is fitting that the last leg of our journey begins here at our library. The place where as a community we come to learn, to ask questions, and to find out about the world we live in and what other people are up to in it.

So let’s be people who don’t just sit in the dread of a world filled with violence and injustice. Let’s learn hop online and learn about the business that are treating the earth the well. Let’s find the politicians that are serious about fixing our prisons. Let’s find out where we can find clothes made by people who were treated with dignity and fairness. Let’s do what we can to make this city a better place to be.

Let us consider how we can learn to hope.

Part of the Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions 2017

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