The Tragedy of Violence/The Challenge of Love

It is all over the news: a van, moving at high speeds, intentionally drove along a more than one kilometre stretch of sidewalk in Toronto’s north-end, killing ten people and injuring numerous more.

I have been thinking about this traumatic, violent event a lot. For this born and bred Toronto girl, it touches my home. I read an account of a woman who was left unscathed, while the friend walking alongside her was swept away by the van. I walk these city streets all the time…it could have just as easily been me. For too many, it WAS their loved one. Tragedy has struck close.

One of the reasons I feel so sad is that while we begin to process and grieve this incident, other incidents are already underway. There is a trail of carnage in this world. It is shockingly easy to feel as though violence will always only touch the “other”. But as Mr Rogers so aptly said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.”

So what does that even look like? I am admittedly overwhelmed. The problems seem too big, too pervasive, too bleak. And yet, there is light piercing through the darkness. It comes when people choose to listen to one another, to extend hospitality, to share resources, to weep when the other is weeping, to hold one another to account in love. We are invited to respond to one another’s needs. It isn’t easy. The best things rarely are.

Tonight I grieve for the victims here in Toronto. I pray for those left behind, the ones who saw it all happen, and the neighbourhood as a whole. I pray for the man responsible and against violence. I also pray for the many people who are intimately acquainted with tragedy across this globe. You are not simply the “other”.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I Corinthians 13:4-7





Getting Angry

At a recent Sunday service one of my friends prayed, “I am SO angry about the violence in this world”.

I am too.

I am angry that I discovered this horrendously long list when I thought to see how many ongoing armed conflicts there are. In this global age, when the world is becoming smaller, I am mad at myself for not being more aware.

I am angry that there is footage available on the internet of men being beheaded.

I am angry that too much violence is overlooked or underreported because it is happening to people who aren’t considered newsworthy.

I am angry that it is so easy to become desensitized to violence and the grave consequences of it.

I am angry about the violence that we inflict on one another with words instead of weapons.

I’m not sure what to do with this anger, except to turn it around and consider ways to promote its opposite. I believe that we have all been called to love our neighbour. Loving our neighbour does not mean that we always agree, nor is it easy. In fact, sometimes it feels close to impossible. Loving is a choice that requires patience, communication, and yes, the willingness to turn the other cheek.

I was reminded of this kind of love when my friend, full of prayerful honest rage, hesitantly agreed to have me pass her the stole we use and close the service with a benediction:

“God, even though I’m angry, be with us. Bless us. Help us to love.”