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War has no place among world of neighbors.

Byline: FROM HEART TO HEART By Helen Park For The Register-Guard

I am a Quaker and a pacifist, and neither logically nor emotionally can I ever endorse any response to conflict that involves violence. War, to me, is immoral; if peace is the goal, war just doesn't work.

My faith tells me to answer hatred with love, injury with pardon, despair with hope. When cynics (including the ones in my mind) say, "It's not that easy, there are terrorists, cold-blooded killers," I have to hold onto the faith that it is that easy.

If I want to end any kind of war, I must live without enemies. I know that international relations are complex and involve different levels of negotiation and interaction, but I maintain that violence has no place in any of them, and integrity has a place in all of them.

Why should dialogue be impossible? As individual human beings, as communities and as nations, we simply do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Last spring, I was able to help bring the American Friends Service Committee's Eyes Wide Open exhibit to Eugene. That same Sunday afternoon, I sat in a Quaker meeting for worship in the center of the exhibit. Surrounded by 1,539 pairs of boots, each labeled with the name, age and home state of a fallen American, I was sitting by the boots of Brian, 23, Michael, 25, and Nicholas, 20, all from Massachusetts.

Their spirit was powerful: the spirit of patriotism, sacrifice and honor, but also deep regret and remorse. Love swelled from our broken hearts that day for those men and women who lost their lives in Iraq.

Drafty Wheeler Pavilion surrounded us with a skylight facing heavenward. The silence was profound. Quakers don't have sermons, hymns, Scripture readings or even interpretations. In what we call a "gathered silence," something settles over every person present. It isn't exactly shared thoughts or feelings, but more like a common recognition of something that we know but don't remember often enough. It doesn't have words. It's the inner peace that radiates outward from everyone until the whole group glows.

That day, we felt it in the presence of those boots - peace, a holy peace, accompanied by deep sighs and falling tears. I felt the presence of God there, and all the angels.

Love for our children, for our country and for our God should not be at odds. I believe in only one love, one world, one people. Fear fragments our perception of one another. It wounds the soul. With the experience of peace within oneself and with everyone all around, one can experience the love that can heal anything.

In my Scriptures, there is a story where the master, Jesus, says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Someone asks, "Who is my neighbor?" and the master replies with a story about a man whose life is saved by a stranger from an enemy land. We're all neighbors, from here to Baghdad, and I can live in peace with my neighbors, wherever they are.

Helen Park is a member of Eugene Friends Meeting. This column is coordinated by Two Rivers Interfaith Ministries, a network of more than 35 religious and spiritual traditions in the Eugene-Springfield area. For more information, visit www.interfaitheugene.org or call 344-5693.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Jan 21, 2006
Words:554
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