What I learned and experienced this summer #8

peace garden

The previous posts have focused on the Anabaptist pilgrimage I was part of in July. In August, we went on our annual pilgrimage to Manitoba to visit both of our extended families. My mom’s extended family has a long tradition of having a family campout every summer that goes back more than 40 years; mom has now continued that with her children and grandchildren. This year some 20 of us crammed into a grand old Victorian house in the Turtle “Mountains” of western Manitoba near the International Peace Garden [IPG].

The IPG is a 2,339 acre botanical garden, devoted to world peace, along the world’s longest unfortified border. The grass, flowers, trees, fountains, and streams are nice but not unusual. What is unusual is that it sits on the 49th parallel, the border between two countries; one can freely pass from one to the other and back again.

I encountered here, for the first time, physical remnants of 9/11. They had created a sculpture made of a few twisted and burned beams from the former World Trade Centre. It is ironic that they would have these in a peace park, not only because it is a reminder of a large scale act of violence, but because the response to it was also a violent military action. The sculpture does remind us of the human longing for peace [SHALOM] and how that dream is so illusory from a purely human perspective. The problem of violence and war in the world is more complicated than I can comprehend, but I pray that we would learn from Jesus that the way to peace is not in taking others’ lives but in giving ours.

Towards the western edge of the developed garden sits “The Chapel of Peace.” The chapel walls were made of local Tyndall limestone and in the walls were inscribed various quotes from the Bible, and from various religious and political leaders. Since the theology and practice of peace is one of the central themes of 16th century Anabaptism, I close this series on “things I learned and experienced this summer” with two quotes from the walls of the peace chapel at the IPG.

“The best defense of peace is not power, but the removal of the causes of war, and international agreements which will put peace on a stronger foundation than the terror of destruction.” [Hon. Lester B. Pearson, former prime minister of Canada]

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” [John 14:27]