Inspiration from Sages

Her Peace was more than Trees

Mathai

“Wangari’s concern for the planet was drawn from her deep concern for humanity. It was very clear to her that for humanity to thrive, our planet had to thrive! For our children to be healthy, our environment had to be healthy. She held the strong view that if we learnt how to manage our natural resources, we would learn how to manage our countries.” Says Miriam Were, a Quaker doctor who counted Wangari her friend.

Wangari Mathai was a great Kenyan leader who died last week age 71. “In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness,” she said, “to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now.”

Mathai was the first African woman to win the Peace Prize. The Nobel committee in 2004 called “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace.” It was a moment of immense pride in Kenya and across Africa. The Nobel committee hailed her for taking “a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women’s rights in particular” and for serving “as inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights.”

Her Green Belt Movement has planted more than 30 million trees in Africa and has helped nearly 900,000 women, inspiring similar efforts in other African countries. The trees provide income, firewood and prevent drought. She went on to obtain a doctorate in veterinary anatomy at the University of Nairobi, becoming the first woman in East or Central Africa to hold such a degree.

She was a thorn in the side of Kenya’s previous president, Daniel arap Moi, whose government labeled the Green Belt Movement “subversive” during the 1980s. Maathai protested the proposal of a huge skyscraper in Nairobi’s central park and soon afterwards she was beaten unconscious by police. She protested the elite holding onto privilege in 2008 and was hit with tear gas by police.


There is a lot of poverty in Africa. Yet Africa is not a poor continent. It is endowed with human beings, sunshine, oil, precious stones, forests, water, wildlife, soil, land and agricultural products. So what is the problem? You cannot be secure by using your power to control resources and deciding that you can’t share them with the rest of the world. You will not realize peace that way. You will have conflict.

 

"People, especially in Africa, must invest in peace, must invest in preventing conflict. We must allow our children to grow, to go to school, instead of carrying guns to shoot each other. You cannot have security by putting borders around yourself.”


A Trumpet Calls as our March Begins

Joeseph E Lowery delivers a blessing in Washington DC. Jan 20, 2009
Joeseph E Lowery delivers a blessing in Washington DC. Jan 20, 2009

Lowery's words begin with the Black National Anthem, found in many church hymnals by JW Johnson and JR Johnson, and sung in AME churches across America since the 1920s.

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.
Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.
We pray now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.
For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed — the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.
And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.
Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.
With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

Lowery ends with a rhyme, tongue-in-cheek, from the 1960s: If you're black, Get back; If you're brown, stick around; If you're yellow, you're mellow; If you're red, you're dead; If you're white, you're allright.  (As I recall yellow in this context refers to pale-skinned folk of African descent.) During all the race riots of the 1960s/1970s, it was popular to sum up how the dominant culture catergorized and disposed blocks of people, judging them by surface features.
This system of color-based privilege exists in southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana, , Namibia) today and in other countries, where clearly coded messages were obvious to even the most casual observer. I hope that Lowery's last ditty is the death rattle to typecasting in out times. He calls us to keep our feet straight in the path of integrity, no matter what leopard spots or racoon mask we wear. May our hearts stay true despite the drunkeness of the world's ways. Embrasos en paz, Minga


Gene Robinson's prayer 1.19.09

Sarah Pulliam at Christianity Today transcribed Bishop Robinson's blessing. This was given before the concert, but for some strange reason, wasn't publicized.

God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears -- tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless  this nation with anger -- anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Bless  us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we've preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.
Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion's God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.

And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.

Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln's reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy's ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King's dream of a nation for all people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.
Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters' childhoods.

And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we're asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen."