At last night’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, there was a young speaker who made a huge impression on the crowd with her passionate and clear commitment to peacemaking. When she finished, the woman sitting next to me said “Wow! Who is that girl?” Of course, many of you know who Lila is and many of you have witnessed the depth of her commitment to the work of reconciliation. Personally, I could not have been more proud of her and of this congregation that has nurtured and supported her in this mission.
Lila spoke from the raised pulpit to a huge gathering of people from many different faith communities about her 2017 journey to Oslo and her discovery of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation as well as her work with her peers in school in peacemaking. She is an exceptional public speaker, she hit all the right notes and presented her points using memorable language and imagery. Her major points were: 1) peace is an absolute imperative in an age of nuclear weapons, 2) peacemaking is hard work, and 3) average people like you and me can make a difference by working on ourselves and on our relationships with our families and communities.
Lila seems to be speaking for a whole generation. She is in the Gen Z cohort―those born between 1997 and 2012. This is a generation that was born in the rubble of 9/11, grew up alongside the longest war in U.S. history, and experienced the normalization of school shootings. These are young people who have learned to navigate social media with its brutal dogpile bullying, watched while the adults around them polarized over a political system, and finally, have dealt with the social breakdown that the pandemic brought. This is a tough generation! They have had to contend with a lot of exposure to violence and chaos at an early age. It seems that this is the energy behind Lila’s call to peacemaking. As hard as it can be to listen to one another and show respect across differences, the alternative is even harder.
Are we listening? Can we hear this generation’s challenge to us all? And, most important, are we willing to join them in the hard, hard work of reconciliation? I think it may be time for us to follow their lead.
In Christ’s peace,