Back in 2020, I was requested to write a poem or prayer on shalom. The Hebrew term, central to the Old Testament, “describes comprehensive well-being.”1 Shalom is about “harmony, security, serenity, right relationships, wholeness, health, prosperity…”2
At the time of the request, George Floyd had just been murdered in public by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin (and the inaction of the other three police officers present at the scene), and I felt like I was carrying the weight of the previous four years: the killings of Black women, men, and children at the hands of white police officers in the USA; the femicides of women in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Latin America; the devastation of hurricanes Irma and María; and the personal daily encounters with white supremacy and sexism at my workplace.
Two years later, things have not gotten better. Less than two weeks ago, a USA terrorist and white supremacist targeted and murdered 10 Black women and men at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. The next day, a Chinese man targeted a Taiwanese church in Southern California and murdered two people. The investigation points to “hate for Taiwanese people” as the gunman’s motive. Hate crimes against Asian people, particularly Asian women, continue to be on the rise. And today, we mourn the evil murder of 19 children and 2 adults at the hands of an 18-year-old gunman at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Shalom seems too far away, and pain is ever-present.
So, I gift you this 2-year-old poem/prayer for when things get hard. I gift you this poem/prayer for today.
In Search of Shalom
It is difficult to write about shalom
When the blood of our Black brothers and sisters cries out from the ground for justice;
When mothers have lost their sons and daughters to the violence of white supremacy;
When our countries, islands, and barrios have become man-made disaster zones;
And the only response we get is those in power throwing us paper towels.
It is difficult to write about wholeness,
When the already mutilated bodies of our Caribbean and Latin American women and girls
Are shattered by the worshipers of Mammon;
When our forests are burnt down to the ground
By those who benefit from fire and implement their policies and economics of extraction,
Turning to ashes the house Creator provided.
It is difficult to write about completeness
When everything that should be held together
Seems to be torn.
And yet, it is there, in the midst of the life-depriving anti-kingdoms of this world
that He who is before all things;
He who made peace through his blood shed on the lynching tree;
He, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,
To leave the comfortable distance of the balcony to follow him on the troubled roads of our countries.
Because in his broken body, he carried the brokenness of this fallen world,
And in his resurrection, he inaugurated the reign of shalom.
In Him, we are now the fellowship of the living,
A company of spec-actors
Rehearsing the drama of God, the Liberator.
We are those who have been threatened with resurrection.
A note from the author:
In the poem/prayer, I give nods to theologians who should be recognized: James H. Cone, and his book The Cross and the Lynching Tree; Samuel Escobar, and his book chapter “Doing Theology on Christ’s Road,” in Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective: Exploring the Contextual Nature of Theology and Mission, edited by Jeffrey P. Greenman and Gene L. Green; Jules A. Martínez Olivieri, and his book A Visible Witness: Christology, Liberation and Participation; and Julia Esquivel, and her poem “They Have Threatened Us With Resurrection.”
This poem/prayer was published in both Spanish and English in Entre crisis y versos: Repensando la fe en cuarentena by the Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana en Guatemala. You can download the book here.
- E. A. Martens, Jeremiah, Believers Church Bible Commentary (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1986), 308.