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A Prayer for a Mingling of Tears

May 4, 2011

By Sister Diane G.

The day after the death of Osama bin Laden, Sister Diane shared this reflection at the start of a phone call among Sisters of Mercy justice coordinators throughout the United States. We offer it for your reflection on this World Day of Prayer.

Last night I was working on my laptop and watching the Phillies-Mets game. At the top of the ninth inning there was a restlessness apparent in the crowd. Soon a chat began: “USA!” “USA!” The commentators were clearly puzzled, as were the players. Soon the chant picked up momentum and became almost deafening. People began holding up their Blackberries and I-Phones for the television cameras to see. The screens revealed a picture of Osama bin Laden, and the caption announced that he had been killed by U.S. forces.

I immediately switched to the news channel. The scene was Lafayette Park across from the White House. People had gathered, many bearing signs, rejoicing at the news. As the crowds grew, I found myself channel surfing, trying to comprehend what the news anchors were reporting.

As the night moved toward early morning, restlessness grew within me. This man was responsible for the brutal killing of so many people. A part of me was glad that he would no longer be able to spread his message of hatred and fear. Yet, I had experienced uneasiness with the response I was observing. It was almost a party-like atmosphere. Never should the taking of a life be cause for celebration. Every human life is sacred.

Needless to say, I did not sleep much last night. I was struggling with my own response and reflecting on the Sisters of Mercy’s Critical Concern of nonviolence. I was aware of my own need for conversion and my inner conflict about this situation.

I read an excerpt from Joan Chittister’s book God’s Tender Mercy: Reflections on Forgiveness. Joan speaks about tears and tells us there is a public dimension to tears as well as a personal one. The “gift of tears” is to have the heart to care about what we do to others. Indeed, tears attune us to ourselves and tears attune us to the rest of the human race, as well. Our own experience of suffering softens our hearts and helps us become more human members of the human race. “We possess a spirituality of weeping that is electrifying in its aliveness of heart.” Never underestimate the spiritual power of tears.

So my prayer is that our tears may mingle with all those who suffer. That the terrible inhumanity we see toward many of our brothers and sisters worldwide will be alleviated and that somehow we begin to see each other not as “other” but as one. Perhaps then the hearts of terrorists will be softened and peace will become a reality in our own hearts and in our world community.

As a response to this prayer, please consider joining the Sisters of Mercy in contacting your senators and representative to urge them to support legislation for a responsible withdrawal from Afghanistan. You can send a message to senators  here and to representatives here.

Below are some resources that might be helpful in your own reflection on bin Laden’s death, the U.S. “war on terror” and the need for consideration of nonviolent responses to crises such as acts of terrorism and international conflicts.

What is a Christian Response to Bin Laden’s Death? By James Martin, SJ, America magazine

Bin Laden & Beyond By Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center

Justice or Vengeance? By Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies

On Osama Bin Laden’s Death by Chris Hedges, former war correspondent

Do Not Rejoice When Your Enemies Fail By David Gushee, Christian ethics professor

Support Women’s Rights Without War By David Cortright, director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame

Beyond Retaliation By Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence

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