Lent, Nonviolence

Lent 2017: Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent, March 19 – Water is a gift for everyone; breaking down the dividing walls

by Fr. Paul Lansu
Senior Policy Advisor, Pax Christi International

Exodus 17:3-7 | Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 | John 4:5-42

The Gospel readings of this period of Lent 2017 open up ever-deepening aspects of the personality of Jesus and his mission among us.

In the Gospel, Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman in public, a woman from another background and culture. She is from a people ostracised by his own people and she is living publicly in an irregular relationship.

Water wells bring people together. Communication and meeting one another — not least with the enemy, the stranger or those from another culture — is an attitude of nonviolent resistance and is the beginning of peacebuilding. The “other” or the “unknown” encounter is not obvious. “Othering” is a form of excluding other people. It is sometimes “dehumanising” the other as an opponent. Both Christ and the woman at the well are criticised for talking to each other and for taking an interest in each other’s backgrounds. Samaritans and Jews did not mix and were encouraged to keep it that way.

However, Jesus and the woman built a bridge between the two very different cultures. He did not condemn the woman but made her the messenger of good news, despite her being regarded by others as a hated foreigner. Bridge-building is the result of an active nonviolent attitude.

Jesus did the unexpected and requested a drink from the woman. By doing so, Jesus accepts the Samaritan woman as a person: she exists! She is seen as a child of God, a person worthy of the deepest respect just like any other human individual.

He then moves to offer her a share in the life of God which he describes as “living water.” She glimpses the wonder of the moment and dashes off to share it with the neighbours. Drawing water was a humdrum part of the Samaritan woman’s life. Her generous kindness opened the way for Jesus to touch her and change her life and that of her townspeople.

Water is central to the giving of life. Clean water is one of the most precious gifts in the world. Water can give life. Ensuring access to water and sanitation for all is a major goal of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

The witness of Christ in his public life is that he cuts through various forms of discrimination. There should be no obstacles between people(s)! Christ is breaking the cycle of violence by taking at least four steps.

Firstly, he treats men and women equally. Respect the other as he or she is.

Secondly, Jews, Samaritans or people from any other tribe all have a right to food and drink. Human rights are universal, including the right to water.

Thirdly, nobody is excluded from God’s love.

Last but not least, he showed that deeds speak louder than words. The reality is that, if you are thirsty, you don’t want endless debates about where the water comes from or who has a rightful claim to it.

Fr. Paul Lansu is Senior Policy Advisor of Pax Christi International.

Lent, Nonviolence

Lent 2017: Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent, March 5 – From revenge to reconciliation

by Moses Sichei Sakong, with Martha Okumu
Peace Tree Network

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 | Romans 5:12-19 | Matthew 4:1-11

ashwednesdayclipMy name is Moses Sichei Sakong from the Mt. Elgon region in Bungoma County in Kenya. I was born on the 6th of June, 1987 into a Sabaot family and I have ten siblings of which I am the second born.

During my childhood, I had never experienced violent conflict, but by 2004, there were warning signs of the coming violence. The Ndorobo people, who were our neighbours, came and burnt down our houses and granaries. By the time I was in secondary school, life had become tough for me as we had lost all our possessions as a family. I started asking myself a lot of questions and developed a negative attitude towards the Ndorobo community.

From 2005 to 2007, the third phase of land redistribution by the government of Kenya in the Mt. Elgon region was underway. It was then that the land conflict escalated and violent clashes started to occur with militia groups being formed. The Sabaot Land Defence Force was formed with the aim of protecting the land interests of its community from the perceived injustice in the resettlement process. The group received support from politicians as membership was drawn from among the youth. It was at this time that I had a desire to join the militia group but my mother refused.

With the escalation of violent conflict between the Soy and Mosop — of which I am a Soy — there was a lot of killings, torture and destruction of property. I lost many relatives including brothers, cousins, uncles and close friends, and it was then that we became internally displaced.

Everyone in my family ran to safety. I and my elder brother went together but on the way we almost got killed as there were gunshots everywhere and we frequently faced death. It is only through God’s will that we made it. I experienced a tough life of slavery; eating was a problem, and this affected me psychologically, physically, emotionally, socially; my education was disrupted.

After the ethnic conflict of 2008, I became aware of the work of Peace Tree Network (PTN) and I started participating in their work in 2009 centered on peace-building. PTN has played a big role in my life by transforming my outlook through their seminars, trainings, and exchange programs, and I now live life in a positive way. For instance, during the conflict period, my heart was filled with revenge for losing my relatives and I did not want to socialise with the Ndorobo group, but through the teachings and skills learnt, it has brought about healing and reconciliation in my life and changed my negative thinking of revenge towards positive living with all people, especially the ones I viewed as my enemies.

I have also discovered my career path for counseling psychology which I am currently pursuing. I have become a peace ambassador and engaged in a reconciliation process in my community through the use of mediation and forgiveness and through that I have learnt the importance of maintaining peace. I educate the youth against engaging in violence and being misused by leaders for their personal gain.

With these skills that I have, I live positively, not a life of hopelessness and negativity, and I am very thankful to be here and to be a testimony of a positive peaceful existence.