JOY SYLVESTER-JOHNSON: When Peace Seems Too Lofty A Goal

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They used to say Roanoke was about ten years behind the rest of the east coast in social trends, fashion, design, etc.

A year ago if you had mentioned using “Zoom” I would have had to google the term to know what you were talking about, even though the popular vehicle for facetime meetings of groups has been around for almost a decade.

Today Zoom meetings take up valuable real estate on my weekly planner. There are days when I am so weary of Zoom events I just want to hide my head under the covers in hopes that when I emerge I will magically be transported to a future where I can meet people face to face and connect in the intimate way I used to take for granted.  I have a good case of Zoom fatigue.

And yet, on Sundays when my Quaker Meeting meets by Zoom, it is a highlight of my week. I am so grateful for the time I get to share with “Friends” who are also friends as we seek the leading of Gods Spirit in our individual and corporate lives. Some weeks there are Friends in our Zoom meeting for worship from Egypt, Cambodia, Kenya, Vietnam, Singapore and other places far from our little valley.

So one could say I have a love / hate relationship with Zoom.

So it was with great interest I read a story published first in the Washington Post and then again in Christian Century:

A neighborhood in southeast Washington, DC, had 11 shootings in the first five months of 2020. After a May 15 shooting, a gang truce was brokered over Zoom—leading to three months without any shootings.

The truce was negotiated by Cure the Streets, a local DC program that involves “violence interrupters,” community members who often have a criminal past of their own.

Before the violence interrupters got involved the antagonists of these turf wars wouldn’t even talk to each other. And yet, after a dozen meetings in the neutral zone of Zoom, it is reported they even expressed love for each other.

Amazing.

People who were willing to kill each other on sight but had never had a conversation with each other.

It captured my attention that the ex-gang members aka “violence interrupters” had managed to facilitate such a conversation, and through God’s grace, a transformation took place. Shared words facilitated by courageous violence interrupters, in a neutral venue, helped mutual distrust and hate to morph into a prelude for love to be born.

It sounded too good to be true—the stuff Disney and Lifetime movies used to be made of. And yet it happened.

The term “violence interrupter” would not let me go. I have always felt, as an untested pacifist, that peace-making was a goal beyond my reach. But “violence interrupter” maybe that was a calling I could embrace.

On November 3, our nation will engage in one of the most important political events of our lifetime as a democratic republic. There has been much press and social comment about when the winner of the contest will be announced. In an effort to make this election valid, many of us have signed a pledge to not accept the results of the election until every vote has been counted.

Some leaders from all sides have said they cannot promise to have a peaceful transition of power, if their candidate is not victorious. The threat of a civil war looms like a dark shadow over this election.

I want to take my stand.

I am not sure if I have what it takes to be a genuine peace maker, but I want to go on record that if this election is not handled in a way in which all votes are counted or following the counting of votes there is less than a peaceful transition of power—I will become a “violence interrupter.”

I will use my pen, my voice and my body to interrupt violence.

I am preparing now with a season of prayer that God will gift me the courage to live into my conviction. Will you join me?

Joy Sylvester Johnson

– Joy Sylvester-Johnson