Turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri continues today in the aftermath of the August 9 shooting of Michael Brown. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited the town yesterday, as a grand jury considers whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson. One version of the tragedy is that Officer Wilson was attacked and shot in self-defense. The other is that the shooting was unprovoked and that Ferguson police discriminate against black citizens.
Clearly, many in Ferguson believe the latter. Street protests in the days after the shooting turned violent; at least 20 police cars have been damaged and stores have been looted. Reportedly, some protesters have shouted, “Kill the police.” However, marchers have also accused police of using disproportionate force in responding to mostly peaceful crowds, and claim they helped protect stores from looting.
At one point Ferguson police fired pepper spray and tear gas in attempts to disperse the crowds. Now we’re hearing that Palestinians are tweeting advice to protesters on how to deal with tear gas. One tweeted, “Remember to not touch your face when tear-gassed or put water on it.” Another advised, “Always make sure to run against the wind /to keep calm when you’re teargassed, the pain will pass, don’t rub your eyes!” More advice: “Don’t Keep much distance from the Police, if you’re close to them they can’t tear Gas.”
The Ferguson tragedy obviously has the attention of the world. Peacemakers in Ferguson have been less obvious. But now we’re hearing about volunteers acting as a buffer between police and protesters. During one especially tense time, a group of people locked arms and positioned themselves between the more confrontational protesters and police. Activists, clergy, and even a motorcycle gang have been attempting to bring calm to the situation. As one local man explained to a reporter, “Who better to police family than family?”
Here’s more good news: donors have given nearly $123,000 to help feed students in Ferguson. Because of the turmoil, local school districts have canceled classes this week. As a result, thousands are in danger of going without meals usually provided by their schools. So the Feed the Students of Ferguson social media campaign has responded, and many are giving generously.
Where has conflict found you today? Jesus was clear: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15). Conversely, our Lord says, “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:24-25). Whether you hurt someone or have been hurt by them, initiate reconciliation. Where you see conflict, seek to be an instrument of peace.
Jesus promised, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Why? Because when we make peace, we imitate the Prince of Peace. Who will call you a son or daughter of God today?