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franciscan - May 2003

© The Society of Saint Francis, 2003

Minister's Letter

Brother Daniel SSF, Minister General of the First Order Brothers, writes:


As I sit at my desk writing this letter we have just heard that there has been an earthquake, of 7.6 on the Richter scale, centred under the sea between the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Four States here in Australia have huge bush fires burning, one of which has destroyed over 500 homes in Canberra. This news comes as we see on television the build-up of American and British Forces in the Middle East, to say nothing of the wanton destruction and loss of life in the Holy Land. A couple of weeks ago, Cyclone Zöe with 300km per hour winds, hit Tikopea and Anuta in the Eastern Solomon Islands.


I want to tell you first of all a little about  Cyclone Zöe which swept over Tikopea causing great destruction. The first report was that there would be great loss of life; this was given even more cause for concern as no contact was possible by radio telephone. The worst was expected, but while many houses, gardens and trees were destroyed, there was no loss of life. Tikopeans hold strongly to their traditional way of life. Therefore unlike some Island groups they remembered their traditional oral history and the stories the older people told. When the signs that a cyclone was on the way were evident, they followed the remembered paths to the caves where they found safety and shelter.


Is there a lesson in all of this for us?


Our traditional way of dealing with disputes is to talk and negotiate, not just rubbish everything the other party says. The Christian response must be respect, love and hope. Not violence, disbelief and rejection.


Martin Luther King said: ‘The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder the hate. In fact violence merely increases the hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.’


The other thing I would like to share with you was an occasion of much joy. In the first week of December a group seven  brothers and sisters from SSF met with a number of friars and sisters of the Catholic Franciscans, members of a Spanish ecumenical Franciscan community and a Lutheran sister.  Our week long ‘Itinerant Dialogue’, hosted by the OFM, was a combination of talking and listening to a number of presentations, and times of pilgrimage when we visited a number of holy sites associated with Saint Francis.  It was a very warm friendly and fraternal meeting. We began with sharing our community story, telling of the forces and needs that made St. Francis and Br. Douglas set out on the paths that have led to our present day communities. One fact became clear to me – we must stay true to our vision, and our story.


There were many opportunities for prayer, both corporate and private.  We discovered that we had much in common, and the hope is that we will be able to continue the dialogue in a number of ways in the future.


My prayers are with you all at this time of great concern and anxiety, and that our world may find true and lasting peace based on justice and an end to greed and self-seeking.


Pax et Bonum f


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