Editorial | Overcome differences with trust, kindness

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Along the route of the Pilgrimage of Trust's Walk of Trust on May 28, people came out of their homes and churches to greet one another in expressions of trust and solidarity — gestures that feel uncommon today.

Not far to the west, a 32-foot high stone memorial to the Confederacy dedicated in 1914 inside Forest Park has become a flashpoint of disagreement whether it's a historical marker that shouldn't be moved, or a nod to slavery and an affront to race relations in St. Louis.

No matter the wounds of the past, St. Louis is better than this, as the Pilgrimage of Trust demonstrated.

The whole purpose of the pilgrimage was to get participants to look at their own attitudes about racial issues and in a more general way, the differences we have with others. We move further apart when we fail to seek understanding and common ground. Knee-jerk reactions to hot-flash topics favor no one. More can be accomplished with kindness of heart than brutal confrontation.

Once we recognize and work on our own attitudes, we must work toward bringing people from different backgrounds together.

The Pilgrimage of Trust was launched more than 35 years ago by Taizé's founder, Brother Roger, in order to foster trust among people through living and praying together, discussing and discovering common ground. Over the years, it has brought together hundreds of thousands of young adults worldwide.

In inviting the Taizé Community, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson underlined his concern for the urgent need to rebuild relations between different groups in the area, especially after the events in Ferguson following a police-involved shooting. The brothers came back to St. Louis to launch the pilgrimage in late September-early October 2016 through evenings of prayer and reflection throughout the St. Louis area.

He asked participants to discover the ways that trust is greater than fear and "reaching out to others without fear." He also spoke about the need to rebuild communities. We must not turn a blind eye to suffering — we cannot take the mentality of human suffering as someone else's "problem."

People often have a fear of going to other parts of the city and meeting people who live different lives. It's time to break away from the usual comforts of our lives to get to know how others live. When we do that, we break down barriers and fears we have about others.

In East St. Louis, Ill., supporters of the East Side Heart and Home Family Center have been rebuilding a community torn by deindustrialization, population decline, racism, poverty, corrupted politics and crime. These supporters come from both sides of the river and from various racial and soci-economic backgrounds.

East Side director Sister Carol Lehmkuhl, OP, said that "the greatest strength and gift that our effort offers our cities is that little by little, we're causing cracks to develop in those walls. And you know what Leonard Cohen says about cracks ... 'that's how the light gets in.'"

We must continue the work of the Taizé Community. Plans are in the works to continue having Taizé services with churches of different Christian denominations. In the meantime, we would benefit from making some of those connections ourselves. Consider visiting a church of a different denomination or cultural background.

Within the Catholic Church are also opportunities to connect with churches that have different cultural backgrounds — African-American, Hispanic, Italian and Vietnamese to name a few. To find specific Mass times and locations, visit www.archstl.org/app/directory/ parishes/events. 

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