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Mike hopes to see the world turned upside down through local communities banding together for social change, especially churches which have recognized the radical calling to be good news to the poor, to set free the prisoners and oppressed, and to become the social embodiment of the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven. He lives with the blessed memory of his wife, in Durham, NC, and has three adult children living in three different states. He also shares his life with the Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, the faculty and students of Shaw University Divinity School in Raleigh, NC, and the faithful fans of Duke and Baylor Basketball in his neighborhood.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Today Is a Day for Reflection

While taking care of some business matters this morning, I was listening to live broadcasts of the commemoration ceremonies for the people who died in the planes and buildings on September 11, 2001. It was a solemn occasion, and the voices of people talking about the fears and pain of that day still usually put a lump in my throat and bring tears brimming in my eyes. The pain of people who have lost family members is something that always gets inside of me. In addition, I also am stirred by the pain of remembering the constant cry of those who suffer because of the level of hatred and bloodthirstiness in the powerful Western Nation-states and of the radical anti-Western Middle Eastern movements.

As I listened to the speakers at the site of the crashed airliner in Pennsylvania, I was more than once troubled by the public officials who spoke, giving hollow words of sympathy and representing the solidified machines of violence. I remembered my brief visit to the Spring Hill Community of the Bruderhof in April of 2002, when I learned that the children of this Bruderhof community had become involved in efforts to memorialize those who died in that crash. I knew that there must be members of the Bruderhof present, but I did not spot them when I now and then looked at the pictures on the screen. (For more information on the Bruderhof, go to the end of this post.)

At the end of the speeches and other observances, the speaker announced that the last event would be songs from a combined choir of children from a local school and from the Spring Hill Bruderhof. I was filled with joy in seeing the children gather in the tent to sing, and heard their voices. My heart was troubled by the contrast between certain public officials who wanted to assure the toughness of the U. S. government and people, and this beautiful song which called on all children of the world to gather for peace. The first song they sang was written partly in one of the languages of the Philippines, and partly in English. I am sure I have heard it before, but here are the lyrics of "I Am But a Small Voice." I can't vouch for the spelling of the foreign words.

I Am But a Small Voice
(r. whittaker/d. batnag)

Akoy munting tinig
May munting pangarap
Samyo ng bulaklak
Sa hanging malinis

May ngiti sa araw
At kung umuulan
Makapagtampisaw
Malayang daigdig
Ng kawalang malay

I am but a small voice
I am but a small dream
The fragrance of a flower
In the unpolluted air

I am but a small voice
I am but a small dream
To smile upon the sun
Be free to dance and sing
Be free to sing my song to everyone

Chorus:
Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one
Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one

We have one hope
We have one dream
And with one voice
We sing...

Coda:
Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind

Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind

(instrumental)

I am but a small voice
I am but a small dream
To smile upon the sun
Be free to dance and sing
Be free to sing my song to everyone

Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one
Come young citizens of the world
We are one, we are one

We have one hope
We have one dream
And with one voice
We sing, we sing

Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind

Peace, prosperity
And love for all mankind


This event again reminds the rest of us of the importance of a peace witness, which among many things that make more mainstream Christians uncomfortable, is surely one thing that the Bruderhof continue after a century to have gotten right again and again.

A second matter for commemoration today is the hundredth anniversary of the first act of satyagraha by Mohandes Gandhi and a group of 3000 who protested the institution of the Asiatic Registration Act, part of the structure of apartheid in South Africa. On September 11, 1906, they held a public protest and civil disobedience in Johannesburg, South Africa, the first trickles of what would become a mighty rushing stream of non-violent resistance in the 20th century and beyond.

About the Bruderhof, if you are wondering who I was talking about. The Bruderhof are a community of Christians which originated in Germany about a century ago and advocated a radical form of community life in the tradition of certain Anabaptist groups. They were persecuted by the Nazis and immigrated to the UK, to Paraguay, and ultimately to the US and Australia. They have several thriving communities in Pennsylvania and New York. Their best known public figure is Johann Christoph Arnold. The Bruderhof experimented with a significant internet presence for several years, but have removed most of their links from the web in the past year or so. They became well-known especially for the Daily Dig, an inspirational quotation and discussion board which was very widely cited until it ended last year. They still maintain a welcome page and a collection of online publications, including many excellent books which a person may download free of charge. Many church and school workers know them for their furniture manufacturing called Community Playthings and Rifton Equipment.

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