I’ve long found the name, La Paz, to be more ironic than descriptive. We’ve just spent 16 days in this beautiful highland city, but it would be an understatement to simply say it was not a peaceful time. On the social and civic level, the background music for our stay has been fire crackers that recently upgraded to dynamite. The country is in the middle of a civil war between two groups of Bolivian miners: those employed by the government since the nationalization of the mines and those belonging to the labor unions. Both groups are claiming rights to the Colquiri mine in the mountains south of La Paz. The government has made promises to both groups and is finding it difficult to reconcile these promises. Angry miners have marched and clashed with each other and with the police. There have been causalities in the center of the city. Roads to other parts of the country have been blocked.
Having a peaceful name does not guarantee a peaceful reality.
I know two other cities named Peace, one of which I’ve been in, one I’ve dreamed about visiting. I’ve been to Salem, Oregon (Shalom in Hebrew). I’ve always wanted to visit Jerusalem in Israel. In spite of her name, Jerusalem has had only rare windows of peace, but these give glimpses of her promised future, bright with the fullness of peace and justice. It’s the present that is the problem.
I’m reminded of the command in Psalm 122 to “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” Pray for the peace of the city of peace. Psalm 122 is one of the psalms of ascent that pilgrims prayed on their way up the mountains to gather for worship and celebration in Jerusalem. The command to pray for her peace in this psalm may have been particular to that city, but as intercessors and workers for peace and justice, we may take to heart our responsibility to pray for the peace of the cities where our pilgrimages take us.
All our activism for peace and justice is not holistic or complete if it does not include prayer. Of course, it works the other way, too. Our prayers are empty if not followed by obedient action.
Lord, bring together our activism for peace and justice and our life of prayer and contemplation. Integrate our lives that we may effectively partner with you in bringing about your purposes for peace on earth. Amen.
Contributed by Nancy Thomas, North Valley Friends