CLINTON — The second of five Peace Soup sessions took place Tuesday at Prince of Peace parish hall. This year, Peace Soup weaves together the Prayer of St. Francis and “Hate Has No Home Here,” a campaign of the Sisters of St. Francis Franciscan Peace Center.
The campaign included dispensing 400 yard signs to local residents and creating an advocacy group. The title is “Hate Has No Home Here: Becoming Instruments of Peace.” The five sessions will highlight love, forgiveness, hope, communication, and Christianity in American culture.
Sue Peters, a retired minister at Unity Center in Clinton, and Dr. Art Donart, a retired deacon and a retired chaplain for the Clinton County Jail and Mercy Hospital, facilitated “Where there is injury, pardon,” the title of Tuesday’s event addressing forgiveness and peace.
Peters presented three stories of forgiveness: Joseph and his coat of many colors, Nelson Mandela, and Jameel McGee. In the Bible, Joseph forgave his 11 brothers despite their harsh treatment of him. Mandela spent 27 years in prison in South Africa for his actions as an apartheid revolutionist but upon being released chose forgiveness and led his country away from a civil war. McGee, a young man wrongly convicted of selling narcotics, spent three years in jail. Rather than seeking revenge on the officer who himself had been arrested on charges of falsifying police reports, he befriended him.
“Joseph had no resentment and said, ‘you meant harm but God meant it for good,’” Peters said. “In South Africa Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu started the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and Jameel — who would have thought they would become friends?”
Next, the 96 attendees were given quotations on the subject of forgiveness and were invited to speak in groups. Personal stories, opinions, and ideas emerged at each of the tables.
The Prayer of St. Francis asks God to “make me an instrument of peace, where there is hatred let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon, where there is doubt faith,” and so on. After the table conversations, Donart talked about “sowing seeds of peace.”
Donart shared a story of the five years he spent living and working in Thailand — done so with the monetary generosity of others from home, many of whom, he said, were in the room. While in Thailand he was taught English at a school in an impoverished area that was half Buddhist and half Muslim, according to Donart. The Thai government allowed the teaching of religious concepts in the schools and Donart was asked to teach Christian concepts. For the students he translated the Prayer of St. Francis into Thai and reported it was well liked by both the Buddhists and the Muslims. Donart was able to build a workshop next to the school that would give students the opportunity to learn welding and air conditioning repair.
A few weeks ago he returned to Thailand and found that the workshop was still there and still being used by students. “I walked down there and the whole level of poverty is kind of erased. It’s a nice kind of middle class thing. And I thought well, that was an expression of love that people like you made possible, and that sows peace.”
Reactions from attendees took on different shapes. Bill Foley remarked, “You can’t change the minds of everybody in the world. It’s hard to pray for the Taliban but that’s what we have to do.” Bea Dehner reflected on the closing ceremony of the Olympics last week, saying, “All those countries were present and no one was telling anyone else their opinions. If they lost, they cheered them on anyway. Why can’t the world be like that?”
Peace Soup will continue next week at Prince of Peace parish hall. On March 6 “Where there is despair hope” will begin at 6 p.m. The focus will be finding hope in hopeless situations. The event is free and open to the public with a free-will offering to the Vinson H. Jetter Community Center of Clinton. The event is sponsored by Prince of Peace Pax Christi and the Sisters of St. Francis.
For more information call the Sisters of St. Francis at 242-7611.