Blessed are the Peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)
On this 365th day of war in Urkaine, and on this day when we remember countless wars across our world, and all those impacted by violence, we remember Jesus’ words: ‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.’ I have been moved in this last month by the peacemakers I walked with on my travels through Europe. Here’s a snapshot of that journey:
The 70-minute drive from Turin to Agape is a bit like the journey across Mull, from Craignure to Fionnphort. The last part in particular is a windy road through spectacular scenery on which you might meet trucks, tractors, wildlife and ski-speeders. Skiing aside, the parallels with the Iona Community continue. Founded in 1947 by post-war, pastors and pacifists, Agape was established as a living sign of community in response to war. Young people from across the divides were brought together to build a faith-based youth centre where open spaces and huge windows signified the transparency sought as an antidote to secrecy and betrayal. This work of reconciliation continues. With a small resident team sharing a common life of work and worship, young people fill the 100-bed centre week-in and week-out during the height of the season. Sound familiar? Think youth camp crossed with the MacLeod Centre with a sprinkling of the Camas spirit and you’re there, in the mountains of northern Italy.
This gem of a peace community was my resting place in February for two nights after a full day of train travel with Fidge (Fiona Fidgin – our intrepid Trustee, and convener of the Community Life Committee). We had already trained (and talked) our way through London, Brussels and Luxembourg, where we spent 24 hours with Members Amanda and Gerry Taylor Aiken. Then we went on to Herborn where we had met with the German-speaking (DACH) region and with the Community Life Committee (CLC). That CLC meeting was a high-point, where zoom-scattered members sat around a table for the first time and shared laughs and fears, vision and hopes as we rattled through a full and overflowing agenda (ably managed by Fidge). And we prayed.
To arrive in Turin and to be accompanied up the mountains in the dark by Lucia, Director of Agape was a joy equaled only by the squeals of delight the next morning when Fidge clocked the views! And then the immersion began. We met the resident team, explored the venue, shared in meals, held silence in the ‘open air’ church, heard stories of the founding of the centre, walked and talked our way around the village of Prali all the while considering ways in which Agape and the Iona Communities might work more closely in partnership. Our friends at Agape showed me the way towards peace as builders of community in a broken world. The journey together has begun. Perhaps one day we will be able to host together, in Agape, on Iona, young people from war torn countries, to build reconciliation together.
As we acknowledge today, 24th February with broken hearts, a full year of war in Ukraine, and as long-held peace treaties, born along with Agape and Iona as a promise of ‘war no more’ are ripped up by our ‘leaders’, we lament death and destruction. We call for the end of all acts of violence. We continue to call for the eradication of weapons of mass destruction from our lands.
At the same time, we commit to learning what it means to being peacemakers in our lands. The Iona Community continues to work closely with Place for Hope, one of Scotland’s faith-based mediation charities, to broaden our own learning about how to be peacemakers in our own contexts.
As we journey through Lent, let us pray with the peacemakers in Kyiv and in Moscow, in London and New York, in Turin and Herbron and Luxembourg – all who are voice-walkers for peace in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Images: Ruth, Lucia and Fidge at Agape, Ruth and Lucia comparing notes and the cross tucked in the trees at Agape.
Image credits: Fiona Fidgin and Adriana Flores.