By Barb Arland-Fye
Pope Paul VI’s often-quoted “If you want peace, work for justice,” summarizes two separate events I attended recently and underscores the relationship of justice to peace.
The first event was,“A Day of Remembrance of the Immigration Raid on Postville,” held May 12 at Lourdes Catholic Church in Bettendorf on the one-year anniversary of a raid that devastated a small northeast Iowa town and tore apart families.
The second event was “In the Name of Peace: A Community Gathering,” held May 17 at Temple Emanuel in Davenport to provide reflection on the human costs of war and the need to make peace.
At first blush the events seem unrelated, but they shared much in common in their goals: to make the world a better place in which to live and to celebrate and respect the diversity of the world in which we live.
I took home a small, concrete reminder of each event: from the Postville remembrance a red ribbon that symbolizes the desire for reform of our nation’s immigration laws, and from the peace event a sunflower plant, which symbolizes peace.
Attendance was light at each event, with some of the same people participating in both — as I have come to expect at such gatherings.
I asked Lourdes parishioner Ollie Finn, who organized A Day of Remembrance, whether she gets discouraged about attendance or thinks speakers are just preaching to the choir.
She doesn’t. Immigration reform is a divisive issue, she reminded me, and working for peace and justice requires patience and perseverance.
“It’s little by little,” she said, and it’s not so much “preaching to the choir” as it is “encouraging those who are working on these issues.”
The church has a long history of working for social justice, but a shorter history of preaching about it in the pews, she thinks.
She and her husband, Bert, both members of Pax Christi Quad-Cities, are among those committed to the effort for the long haul.
“So long as we feel we are doing what the Gospel calls us to do, to ‘seek justice and walk humbly with our God,’ we will continue on,” Ollie told me.
Rabbi Henry Karp, who spoke at the Day of Remembrance and whose synagogue, Temple Emanuel, hosted the community peace event, said one of the greatest frustrations is the lack of media attention.
“It’s hard to get on the radar screen of the people in the community. Last year Postville was all over the news; this year it’s literally yesterday’s news. Even though the matters are not resolved, even though the issues that gave birth to the Postville crisis are not even near being resolved in our society.”
He blames the public, in part. “Unless the people in our community see it as an immediate pressing issue, they can’t be bothered.”
“When one looks at the quality of life on our planet and the pain and suffering that exist on our planet, you have to see that all these issues are intertwined. It’s not enough to be interested in just peace, or immigration laws, you also have be interested in hunger. You have to be interested in oppression, and human rights.
“And,” Rabbi Karp said, “When the resolution of these issues comes together, we achieve the world that we claim we aspire to.”