"Non-Violence," a bronze sculpture by Swedish artist Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd

By Sarah Balzer
Tuesday, December 15, 2015

On Friday, Nov. 27, three people were killed and nine injured when a gunman opened fire on a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs.

I would often hear of tragic stories from around the world while listening to the evening news on the radio from the comfort of my home in small-town Kansas. I was expecting a bit more violence in my new home when I applied for Service Adventure, simply because Colorado Springs is a much larger city. However, I never expected it to hit quite this close to home.

 

 

The Planned Parenthood Clinic that was targeted is only 3.5 miles from our unit house. The close proximity of this act of violence seemed to make the situation so much more real for me. Instead of fear, which I expected to feel, I was overcome with frustration and anger. I have always been of the opinion that violence should rarely be used in any situation, even as a last resort. I had so many questions: What was the shooter trying to accomplish? Why would he (Robert Dear) resort to murder in protest to abortion, which he believes is murder? Why are we seeing so much violence around the world, from Paris to Kenya to San Bernardino? After some time to reflect, I have come to two conclusions.

As U.S. citizens we still have so much to be thankful for. While the incarceration rate in the United States remains high, violent crimes are less common than in places like Honduras, which has the highest homicide rate in the world – 90.4 out of 100,000 as opposed to only 4.5 out of 100,000 in America. We are also blessed to have a fairly stable country. In Syria, political unrest has caused immense destruction, and more than 200,000 people have died since clashes between President Bashar al- Assad’s government and rebel forces began in 2011. As a white Christian, I am also thankful that I will not be looked at as a terrorist, simply because an extremist “Christian” committed an act of terror. People of other religions and skin colors don’t always have that luxury.

Prayer is a powerful thing, but simply asking God to make the world a more peaceful place isn’t enough. Instead, we need to start asking God to give us the patience, wisdom and endurance to make peace among ourselves. If we want change, we need to take charge and speak out – whether that comes in the form of demanding stricter gun control in America (there are as many or more guns in the United States as there are people, according to the Congressional Research Service) or simply donating to organizations that promote peace. Continue to pray for peace and for the victims of violence around the world, but don’t stop there.

It’s hard to make sense of cruelty whenever it happens, and it’s hard to think of ways to combat violence without using violence ourselves. However, we cannot let ourselves stand by the wayside, refusing to act, simply because of our pacifist roots. I don’t have the answers on how to end violence for good, but not having the answers is no excuse not to try.

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Sarah Balzer is a 2015-2016 Service Adventure participant from Inman, Kansas. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and serves at Family Promise of Colorado Springs.

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