— A reflection for my colleagues

Like many other people around the world, the events of the last few days have left me profoundly depressed. As the violence escalated last week in Gaza, Israeli against Palestinian, we once again saw the victims of these apparently endless animosities carried through the streets: children, no older than some of the kids in my Year 7 class. We are so accustomed to the sight of rockets and bombs being traded across the border that we forget the high price that has been paid over the last century for possession of what we once called the “Holy Land”. For every line on the map; of every fence and wall erected in fear and hatred, there is pain and blood and suffering.

The catastrophe of Flight MH17 is only just unfolding; it is hard to call it a tragedy when the death of nearly three hundred people seems to have been a random, if not careless, act of violence in a civil conflict caused by cynical political self-interest. Like the land of Israel and Palestine, the Ukraine’s history is soaked in blood: tribal conflict, anti-semitic pogrom, two world wars, the Final Solution, ethnic cleansing. Now sixty children have rained down on the earth and lie abandoned, denied even the dignity of care and peace in death. It is an image that breaks my heart.

What shall we say to our Home Rooms this morning about these two scenes of violence? Do we pass over it as too hard, or too inappropriate, or too far away? How can we pray, and our prayers make any difference to all that suffering? But we tell each other, and we say to our students, that we are ‘to be on earth the heart of God’. Where is the heart of God in all this?

The American poet Maya Angelou lived through the worst repressions of the pre-Civil Rights South but became an extraordinary and optimistic voice for both black and white Americans. One of her poems has more than a seed of hope for a world waking up to more hate than love.

“A Brave and Startling Truth”
Maya Angelou

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Our message, every day, to our students, is one of hope. As Ghandi said, “You are the change you wish to see in the world…” If you feel comfortable joining in prayer, perhaps you might like to sat the Prayer of St Francis in hope of a more peaceful world.

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.