Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Liberty and Justice for All

What a tumultuous three weeks this has been in Egypt!
Last Friday, President Mubarak finally resigned as the Egyptian president. At this point, though, it is hard to know what the eventual outcome will be to the historic changes than have taken place in Egypt through massive non-violent protests.
The shouting of throngs of people in Tahrir Square on January 25 broke the “peaceful” silence of citizens living under a oppressive despot. What transpired there reminded me of the impressive poem I heard for the first time last December.
Brian Wren (b. 1936) is a British hymn writer and poet whose work appears in the newer hymnals of many denominations. Wren’s poem that impressed me so much goes like this:
Say 'no' to peace / If what they mean by peace / Is the quiet misery of hunger / The frozen stillness of fear / The silence of broken spirits / The unborn hopes of the oppressed.
“Tell them that peace / Is the shouting of children at play / The babble of tongues set free / The thunder of dancing feet / And a father’s voice singing.
“Say 'no' to peace / If what they mean by peace / Is a rampart of gleaming missiles / The arming of distant wars / Money at ease in its castle / And grateful poor at the gate.
“Tell them that peace / Is the hauling down of flags / The forging of guns into ploughs / The giving of the fields to the landless / And hunger a fading dream.”
Masses of Egyptian people said “no” to “peace” in order to call for freedom and democracy. It was also a call for social justice, which is the thrust of Wren’s poem.
There will likely be many struggles of various kinds in Egypt over the coming months and years. It is impossible to know what the outcome will be. But surely serious attempts will be made to establish a democratic government.
Democracy basically means the rule of the majority, and that, of course, is far superior to the rule of a minority or the rule of a dictator. But along with democracy there needs to be what we affirm in the pledge of allegiance to the American flag: liberty and justice for all.
Sometimes the majority can run roughshod over minorities. In some societies, people who differ from the majority in skin color, religion, ethnicity, or even sexual orientation are treated unjustly.
I pray that in the move to democracy and freedom in Egypt there will truly be freedom and justice for all. I also continue to pray the same thing for our country, for there are still pockets of prejudice and unjust treatment of some people here.
Whenever and wherever there is injustice and little freedom, there needs to be people who will say “no” to peace, if peace means silence in the presence of oppression and discrimination. Please note: pacifism does not entail passivism. That is why I rejoiced last week when I heard that the Egyptian president had stepped down. The people said “no” to the peace imposed by his despotic rule. They called loudly and clearly for freedom and democracy.
Now they must do their best to make sure there is freedom and justice for all.


  1. E-mail comments from two esteemed "sempai" (older colleagues):

    "Amen! We must pray for Egypt!"

    "Thank you Leroy for the reminder. The resignation of Mubarak must be followed by positive action that there will be in Egypt liberty and justice for all. We pray that the spirit of God in Egypt will move the people toward that end."

  2. Now the work begins.

    May their work be characterized with the same zeal, discipline and integrity as their demonstrations in the Square.

  3. I went to a musician's workshop led by Brian Wren, and I had not heard of this poem. Thank you for posting it.

    Thank you, Leroy for the words about Egypt. I continue to be aghast when the corporate media always (not an exaggeration) tries to spin such an event with, "But what about US? How does this event/person/crisis/disaster effect US?" I believe that Egyptians will prevail, if WE don't interfere, in their quest for freedom and justice. That is my prayer.