We must dismantle our Walls, Brick by Brick! By David Kelly, in NCR, Sep. 19, 2016
Willie, one of the youth of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (Juan Acuña)
(Note: “Delenda est Carthago” (Carthage must be destroyed) determination of the ancient Greek mythology must be made our motto to break down all manmade walls dividing humans among themselves, whether in politics or in religion. How can walls have any place in a globalized world of internet which has already turned humans into “world citizens?” Can humans make walls reaching up to the sky? If water comes over our heads, above them are boats at our beck and call. So are internet connections above all.
The Berlin wall was brought down by the combined will of peoples on both sides of the wall. In 1950es I had the good fortune of visiting East Berlin in East Germany, when the wall was still erect. It was part of a Sociology study tour programme in Rome. There were a lot of checks to be gone through to enter East Berlin. It was a sight to be seen to be believed. West Berlin was a modern city bubling with life with glitter and glory, with sights and sound of modern buildings, hotels and business pavilions thronged by happy-go-lucky people frolicking.
In the East Berlin instead, everything looked dull and gloomy with deserted royal roads called, Lenin Alley. Karl Marx Alley etc. But people wore a suspicious look on their faces writ large at the sight of foreigners and they hesitated to talk, as though they were under watch. I had a camera, not very costly either, but which appeared to shop keepers in the East as a precious catch, since it was not available in the East. There were memorial spots along the wall especially on the western side of the wall, erected to commemorate the story of persons who tried to cross the wall from East to West and were shot dead.
Can such walls and laws forbidding people to meet, build a world community helping and supporting one another? What happened is all history. But people, even leaders of so-called civilized nations don’t seem to have learned any lessons. But the walls to be destroyed first are the ones we have erected in our minds and hearts. Think of the divided churches in their thousands, of Castes, Classes and communities double that number. There is no space here to recount all divisions we have created in our minds. Inexorably the world is moving towards UNITY, a religion-less world, a world government to which we have given the pet name United Nations.
Yes until that United Nations become a reality we all have to continue to sweat and strain, breaking down the Berlin walls we have built in our minds. May God, science or evolution, if you are an unbeliever, help us reach that inevitable goal, with good speed, which I for one am fairly sure will not happen in our life time. For that reason, we, on our part should not slacken our efforts for the sake of the benefits it will bring to future generations. james kottoor, editor)
Editor's note: "Reconciliation in Chicago" is NCR online's newest blog series, a weekly blog from the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a ministry of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood based in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood. Each post will feature hopeful reflections from the ministry's staff and volunteers, as they share their stories about working with youth and families affected by violence and incarceration.
This is the conclusion of NCR online's Reconciliation in Chicago blog series. You can read all previous entries at the feature series page Reconciliation in Chicago. Next week will see the return of blog series "Take and Read."
So much of our work is to bring people together. We stand in the midst of what are sometimes very difficult situations and encourage people to talk about what they carry within. Some have been harmed deeply; many have feelings of hopelessness. A good many of the families have been fractured or separated by violence and trauma. Even the title of our old newsletter Beyond Boundaries speaks to the mission to reach "beyond boundaries" and find new ways of "being" together.
There are visible boundaries that separate people; we all remember the Berlin Wall that separated a nation and families. There is the wall that is talked about being built to separate the United States from our neighbors in Mexico. This wall, already built in some places, separates not only nations, but families and communities; it separates the people of God.
There is a community of people on the border of Mexico and the United States where a wall actually separated the town. The town had been there for years, but then the U.S. government built the wall. Even though a wall separated them, they continued to celebrate Mass together. They could not reach across, except for the small holes in the wall that allowed them a limited sign of peace and the distribution of communion, but they celebrated Mass together. It is a great image for how the Eucharist reaches out and crosses many barriers and boundaries, bringing people who are divided by walls together.
Not all barriers or walls are as visible as the Berlin wall once was, and that border town wall is now. Some barriers are buried deep within us. A young man who gathers with us for our Making Choices group (for youth coming out of detention) struggles to "lower the walls" that he has built up to protect himself from those that would harm him. In the safe place of the Precious Blood Center, he begins to talk about the severe abuse he received from the hands of his own mother. His wall is built securely. It is held up by the fear of revealing himself to those around him. It is sustained and supported by the feeling of not being good enough, of being disposable, and not having any worth. Little by little, brick by brick, he finds the safety to begin to dismantle his wall.
I was talking to a young man in Cook County Jail, who I met years ago at the juvenile detention center. He was fighting a case that threatened to take his freedom for a long time. He spoke of how he got to this point in his life. He spoke about all the pain and the hurt that he had caused others and how now he was getting what he deserved. He spoke of wanting to live differently but not knowing how. I simply listened. When his time was up, he slowly got up and walked back to his cell. He still carried his burden; he still faced countless years of incarceration; but his was a story that was told and, more importantly, heard. He, for a moment at least, did not live in isolation.
Ours is a spirituality of creating safe places where people can gather and speak openly, honestly, and listen to one another's stories. It is about trying to reach across boundaries and borders that tend to get in the way of being a community. Don't get me wrong, I understand why people build walls; I understand that kind of fear — I've got a few walls myself. But if we are faithful to our call, then we must work hard to gently and carefully, brick by brick, tear down the walls of separation. As a people, we must move beyond boundaries.[Precious Blood Fr. David Kelly is executive director of Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation.]