Friends Without Borders

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Hello!

Welcome back to Saint Rita’s blog about present-day peacemakers! May you continue to find inspiration through the story behind our newly-featured group! For this edition, I thought it might be important to highlight people who have found relatively simple (compared to our last piece on MLK, that is) ways of sparking monumental peace efforts. So without further adieu, let me introduce to you the amazing movement that is Friends Without Borders!

In the early 2000’s, John Silliphant and Mark Peters traveled to India for service work, but were forced to leave the country when there arose complications with their visas. While en route to Pakistan, they came up with the idea of launching a massive letter writing campaign between the children of India and Pakistan. The Kashmir Conflict between these countries has persisted since the partition of India in 1947, which leads us to one (of many) large and grueling questions: how on Earth do we forge peace, despite histories of war and conflict? Silliphant and Peters looked to future generations and surmised that if Indian and Pakistani children could befriend one another, then they would grow into adults concerned about reconciling differences between the nations. Silliphant described the project in this way:

When those two kids connect, a connection is made that is going to be lasting. And so, if you connect a whole generation then when they grow up the world is replaced by kids with a whole different mindset…The children of India believe that [India and Pakistan] are fighting over the past, and the past is gone. We need to look out for the future.

Within a few weeks’ time, Silliphant and Peters collected more than 10,000 letters to deliver between the nations. The response has been overwhelming: children from India once wrote a love letter to the children of Pakistan measuring 319 feet by 233 feet, to which Pakistani children replied, “we love the children of India and we want peace.” What’s more, this campaign has become the largest peace effort in the histories of both India and Pakistan. Friends Without Borders is a beautiful model of how basic human connection, through simple means, can effectively bring about peace in our world.

So often we reflect upon larger-than-life figures like the great Dr. King and while they provide us with examples of hope and strength, how many among us question our own abilities to move mountains? But let me remind you, our marvelous faith-filled community you, that we are told in 1 Peter:

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

In your own ways, grand and small, you members of a “chosen race” have more power than you realize to create waves in this world. Is your resounding question still “how”? Here’s the first step: know that without the hand of God in our lives, we are powerless. Our gifts, abilities, ideas, and truly everything that is good and lacking in each of us, are all according to His design. You are not alone in your efforts and to the extent which we believe in the sanctity of all life, so too do we believe that all people are imbued with a purpose and calling. Yes - you are graced with purpose. And yes - all of the graces bestowed upon Dr. King, Silliphant, and Peters are available to you as well.

Mountains are moved stone-by-stone. Do not complicate your efforts at making peace, simply look to the One who is its source.

Discussion Question:

1) Where and how would you work towards peace, if you did not doubt your abilities to do so?

Peace to you. 

-Kelsey Rode, Saint Rita Shrine Office Administrator

Practicing Peace

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Hello! On behalf of everyone at the National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia in Philadelphia, allow me to welcome you to our community and blog, “Practicing Peace”!

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called
sons [and daughters] of God.”
Matthew 5:9

In tribute to our wonderful patroness, Saint Rita of Cascia, our motto at the Shrine is to “Make Peace. Find Peace.” Throughout her life, Saint Rita was regarded as an exemplary peacemaker and is remembered today as the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes. We hope to honor Saint Rita’s legacy with this blog series by illuminating the stories of present-day individuals and groups, who are similarly devoted to finding peace in our world.

As a Christian community, we are called to be emissaries of peace by no other than our Lord and Savior. During the Sermon on the Mount, we are told, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons [and daughters] of God.” (Matthew 5:9) Saint Paul elaborated on this message in his letter to the Colossians, instructing the addressed (and us) to behave in this way:

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful…. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:12-17

What does this mean for followers of Jesus Christ now? What does this mean in our Roman Catholic tradition? These passages contain more than pleasant ideas about becoming instruments of peace: this is our inheritance and the Scripture directly challenges each of us to forge peace in our world. Peace is fully realized and appreciated only when we have experienced its absence, so that word “challenge” is used deliberately. Make no mistake, it takes work to be a missionary!

As you pursue this end, this blog is intended to encourage and inspire you in your efforts. May you read about these contemporary peacemakers and be comforted in the knowledge that they are ordinary people who, in the face of great adversity and despair, accomplished extraordinary things. May their stories also remind you that you are not alone on this path: you have neighbors, all of us at the Shrine, and the Kingdom of Heaven supporting you in your endeavoring towards peace.

As a closing thought, I will leave you with this sustenance for your journey:

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” - John 14:27

Peace to you. You are in our prayers, always.

-Kelsey Rode, Saint Rita Shrine Office Administrator