A story is told of a Conflict Counsellor who received a phone call from a Catholic priest. The priest and the principal of the Parish School had seen their relationship deteriorate to the point where they could no longer communicate. The Conflict Counsellor spoke to both men and said “Before we get together I want you to write down for me what you think the problems are in your relationship.”
The Principal and the priest came to the first meeting. They sat opposite one another and the conflict counsellor asked them to read out their lists.
The Priest said “I feel that the principal resents my presence in the school. I would like to play a larger role but feel I can’t. I’d especially like to be more involved in religious education but I feel pushed out.”
The Principal then read out his assessment of the problem. “I feel that the priest doesn’t want to get involved in the school. I can’t understand why he feels this way because we desperately need him, especially in religious education.”
Tradition claims that Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchure is built over the cave in which Christ is said to have been buried. In July 2002 the church became the scene of ugly fighting between the monks who run it. The conflict began when a Coptic monk sitting on the rooftop decided to move his chair into the shade. This took him into the part of the rooftop courtyard looked after by the Ethiopian monks.
It turns out that the Ethiopian and Coptic monks have been arguing over the rooftop of the Church of the Holy Sepulchure for centuries. In 1752 the Ottoman Sultan issued an edict declaring which parts of the Church belong to each of six Christian groups: the Latins, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Copts, and Ethiopians. Despite the edict conflict over the church remains.
The rooftop had been controlled by the Ethiopians, but they lost control to the Copts when hit by a disease epidemic in the 19th century. Then in 1970 the Ethiopians regained control when the Coptic monks were absent for a short period. They have been squatting there ever since, with at least one Ethiopian monk always remaining on the roof to assert their rights. In response a Coptic monk has been living on the roof also, to maintain the claim of the Copts.
And so we get to a Monday in July 2002, when the Coptic monk moves his chair into the shade. Harsh words led to pushes, then shoves, until an all our brawl is going, including the throwing of chairs and iron bars. At the end of the fight 11 of the monks were injured, including one monk unconscious in hospital and another with a broken arm.
How tragic that a church which serves as a memorial to Christ is the scene for such bitter conflict among his followers. This is a far cry from Christ’s call to love one another, turn the other cheek, and his prayer that his followers might “be one”.
Source: story reported by Reuters, Monday July 29, 2002
There was once an old stone monastery tucked away in the middle of a picturesque forest. For many years people would make the significant detour required to seek out this monastery. The peaceful spirit of the place was healing for the soul.
In recent years however fewer and fewer people were making their way to the monastery. The monks had grown jealous and petty in their relationships with one another, and the animosity was felt by those who visited.
The Abbot of the monastery was distressed by what was happening, and poured out his heart to his good friend Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a wise old Jewish rabbi. Having heard the Abbot’s tale of woe he asked if he could offer a suggestion. “Please do” responded the Abbot. “Anything you can offer.”
Jeremiah said that he had received a vision, an important vision, and the vision was this: the messiah was among the ranks of the monks. The Abbot was flabbergasted. One among his own was the Messiah! Who could it be? He knew it wasn’t himself, but who? He raced back to the monastery and shared his exciting news with his fellow monks.
The monks grew silent as they looked into each other’s faces. Was this one the Messiah?
From that day on the mood in the monastery changed. Joseph and Ivan started talking again, neither wanting to be guilty of slighting the Messiah. Pierre and Naibu left behind their frosty anger and sought out each other’s forgiveness. The monks began serving each other, looking out for opportunities to assist, seeking healing and forgiveness where offence had been given.
As one traveler, then another, found their way to the monastery word soon spread about the remarkable spirit of the place. People once again took the journey to the monastery and found themselves renewed and transformed. All because those monks knew the Messiah was among them.
High in the Andes mountains is an enormous statue of Christ known as El Cristo de los Andes (The Christ of the Andes). It sits right on the border dividing Argentina from Chile, and was built to commemorate the resolution of boundary questions that had more than once threatened peaceful relationships between the nations. As long as the statue stands the nations have pledged there will be peace between Argentina and Chile. And so “Christ of the Andes” stands 14,000 feet above sea level, with one hand holding a cross and the other hand held up as though providing a blessing.
Ironically, shortly after the statue was erected as a symbol of mutual peace, controversy and bitterness broke out, as the statue of Christ faced Argentina, and so had its back turned towards Chile. The tension was defused by a Chilean journalist who humorously concluded it was only right that the statue face this way, for “the people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans.”
The Christ of the Andes statue reminds us that Christ offers peace and reconciliation to those who are at war with God and to those at war with each other, and that in effect, we are all like the Argentinians, we all need Christ watching over us.
Sources: reported in The Catholic Encyclopaedia and Bits & Pieces, June 25, 1992.
Once upon a time two brothers shared adjoining farms. For over 40 years of they worked side by side, sharing equipment and helping each other out whenever needed. Then one day a rift developed. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by months of angry silence.
One day the eldest brother, Pete, was out in his fields when a ute pulled up. Out jumped a man who approached Pete carrying a carpenter’s toolbox. “I’m looking for a few days work” he said. “Perhaps you would have a few small jobs I could do for you?”
“Well, yes I do,” said Peter. “See that creek down there, it’s the border between my brother’s farm and mine. Me brother keeps it nice and deep to stop me from setting one foot on his beloved farm. Well I’ll oblige him. I want you to take that timber over there by the barn and build me a new fence, a real tall one, so I don’t have to look over at my stinkin’ brother and his farm no more.”
The carpenter was glad to have the work, “No worries mate. I understand. Just point me to your post-hole digger and I’ll get the job done.”
So the carpenter set about working. Meanwhile farmer Pete drove into town to the cattle auction. When he returned at sunset he was shocked to see what the carpenter had done.
There was no fence. Instead the carpenter had built a bridge and walking across it was Pete’s younger brother. He held out his hand and spoke to his brother, “Pete after all I’ve done to you these past few weeks I can’t believe you’d still reach out to me. You’re right. It’s time to bury the hatchet.”
The two brothers met at the middle of the bridge and embraced. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. “No, wait! Stay a few days. I’ve a lot of other projects for you,” said farmer Pete. “I’d love to stay on,” the carpenter said, “but I have more bridges to build.”
Erich Remarque’s book, All Quiet on the Western Front tells of a remarkable encounter between two enemy soldiers during the Second World War. During battle a German soldier took shelter in crater made by artillery shells. Looking around he saw a man wounded, an enemy soldier. He was dying. The German soldier’s heart went out to him. He gave him water from his canteen and listened as the dying man spoke of his wife and children. The German helped him find his wallet and take out pictures of his family to look at one last time.
In that encounter these two men ceased to be enemies. The German had seen the wounded soldier in a new way. Not as an enemy combatant but as a father, a husband, someone who loves and is loved. Someone just like him.
This is always the path of peace and reconciliation, learning to truly see the other and in them recognising someone just like yourself.