One of the pastors at my church offered a very simple solution to creating a more peaceful world in a recent sermon. He said it is time for people to step outside their comfort zones, to scatter out into places that may at least initially feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable and start getting to know people who are different than they are. It is time for us to get out of our holy huddles and make new connections that break down the polarizing stereotypes of ‘us and them’ or ‘friends and enemies’ . It is easier to hate or judge or stereotype people we have never met or haven’t taken the time to get to know. He encouraged us to scatter out into the world and get to know people and places that take us away from the familiar. Our pastor noted a direct correlation between the American states with the most hate groups and those with the highest percentage of people who do not hold passports.
This doesn’t mean we have to travel abroad to get away from the familiar and break free of our complacent huddles. There are plenty of opportunities right here in Manitoba to step out of our comfort zone and really get to know people who have a different religion than ours, who are in a different age category than we are, whose native language is different from ours, whose sexual orientation is different from ours, whose culture and ethnicity is different from ours, whose economic status is very different from ours, or those who hold very different political views than we do.
I pray for peace in the world every night before I go to sleep but that petition often feels hollow. I can’t just pray. I have to do something! My pastor’s words about breaking free of the comfortable circles of interaction we all naturally tend to migrate towards and pushing ourselves out into the wider world to see and experience and really get to know people who are very different than we are was inspiring. That’s something I CAN do.