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Peace Sunday, by Pastor Lee Lever

Every year when the anniversary of 9/11 comes around, I struggle with the legacy of that horrific event. I mourn those who died with the acts of terror. It is difficult to understand the mindset of those who commit such acts. I wonder at the depths of extremism. As the American Empire reacted to the attacks with costly perpetual wars, I lament the loss of life, the degradation of creation, and the downward spiral of retributive violence.

In a piece written for Fellowship of Reconciliation, Rev. Graylan Scott Hagler wrote, “According to the Comptroller of the Department of Defense, the cost of our response in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria from 2001 to 2021 has been $1.6 trillion. 4,492 service members were killed in this war with 32,292 wounded. According to the Watson Institute at Brown University, 432,093 civilians died violent deaths as a direct result of the US 9-11 wars and an estimated 3.6-3.8 million people died indirectly from the 9-11 wars, a death toll of at least 4.5 to 4.7 million and still counting.”

We need a better way to coexist on earth. “On Earth, Peace!” is a fitting vision. I am glad for the Peace Pole next to Houston Mennonite Church declaring that vision in a variety of languages. I am glad to be part of a Peace Church tradition.

This coming Sunday we are observing Peace Sunday with resources from Mennonite World Conference using the theme, “We are Family.” We live in a world that gives much attention to certain images of family (forgetting how social construction has shaped our ideas of who is included and what a family is supposed to be) we tend to lose sight of what lies at the center: relationships. The quality of the relationships – not a given structure or composition – is what makes a “family” a space in which people can embody just and peaceful relationships with one another, witnessing to God’s shalom.

Peace Sunday comes alongside International Day of Peace (IDP) observed around the world on 21 September. The UN General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. Never has our world needed peace more.

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