"A Peaceful Song of Protest"
Rev. Greg Ward
Some Parts adapted from Robert Fulghum
Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North
October 21st, 2001
of this takes place in an area that could be decorated like a city
Props: A cello, some bread pans, some roses, some small smooth stones and a balanced teeter-totter with baskets attached to each end to carry the stones, a quilt.
Theme: Everyone has the ability to make a difference if they have initiative, care, creativity and determination.
PRELUDE – Cello
The year is 1992. The city is Sarajevo which is the capital of Bosnia in the former Yugoslavia. It is a beautiful city with a rich history. Wonderful Turkish architecture gives the layout a unique flavor and it has long been known as a hub of travel, a place of culture and art; a city with a difficult history and diverse people and a city in the midst of a civil war.
It was only a year ago that Croatia and Serbia, territories to the north, had declared their independence from greater Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had long existed under communist rule. Free elections were held in these countries for the first time anyone living there had known. Bosnia also wanting free elections struggled to claim their independence in 1991.
But it was not nearly so easy for Bosnia to do this. The reason is that while Serbia contained all Serbs and Croatia contained all Croats, Bosnia had a mixture of different ethnic groups. There were Croats and Serbs as well as Bosnian Muslims. In April of 1992, the country’s Serbians and Croatians began trying to claim large chunks of Bosnian territory on behalf of their own countries. Sarajevo was under siege from Serbs in the surrounding hills and suburbs. The violence in the city was horrible.
In the city square it was common to see people of all ethnic groups hiding in their homes. As happens when your city comes under attack, people watched out for one another. They helped get the food and medicine that was needed. They helped in the chores of life, and they helped provide what comfort and protection they could.
Since supplies of food sometimes were unable to make it into the city there was widespread hunger. For many people, getting from one day to the next was the most they could hope for.
We light this chalice in times where we are unsure and need reassurance. We light this chalice to see in our selves the things that make a difference.
WELCOME AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
STORY PART II
The time is 1992. It was a time of terrible unrest and civil war in Sarajevo. Different leaders spread hatred between citizens who belonged to different religions and ethnic groups. Everyone became an enemy of someone else. No one was safe. Men, women, children, babies, grandparents – old and young – strong and weak – partisan and innocent – all were in constant danger.
On May 27th, at 4:00 P.M., a long line of people waited in the middle of a city street. They stood outside the bakery hoping to get what little bread was being made. Flour was scarce as was all food. Suddenly, without warning, a mortar bomb dropped in the center of that line. In one fiery explosion, concrete, twisted metal and people were scattered around. Twenty-two people perished. Few were spared. No one would forget. Everyone felt helpless.
Except one man. A musician. A cellist. Middle aged, longish hair, a great bushy mustache. He played cello as a member of the Sarajevo Opera Orchestra. He had waited for the fighting to stop. It was the fighting that discouraged patrons from attending the Opera. The Orchestra disbanded. He was out of work. He too was hungry. He knew that it could have been him in that bread line. He felt sad and angry. But what could he do.
On the following day, May 28th at four o’clock, this one man, Vedran Smailovic, took a café chair and placed it in the heart of the crater left by the bomb. Dressed in formal evening clothes he brought his cello and played in front of the bakery where many of his neighbors perished.
Smailovic played Albinoni’s moving Adagio in G minor. Perhaps he chose it because it was written using music found on a scrap of paper found in the ruins of Dresden after the second World War. The music had survived the firebombing of the concentration camps. Perhaps that is why he played it there in the scarred streets of Sarajevo. Something, he thought, must survive – something must triumph over horror.
Vedran Smailovic played this piece on his cello amidst sniper fire and bombs falling around him. He played the same piece everyday at four o’clock for the next twenty-two days. One performance for each person who died.
HYMN # 100 There is More Love, Somewhere
HAND OF FRIENDSHIP
STORY PART III
The time is April 1993. The news of Vedran Smailovic’s achievements reached around the world and inspired many people. The sight where the "Breadline Massacre" occured becomes a shrine. It is marked by wreathes, candles, and pieces of paper holding the names of the victims who died there. Not far from that site lay a ruined city square where a Muslim mosque, a Roman Catholic cathedral and an orthodox church once stood. A year from the date of the bombing, Joan Baez, the first major artist to visit Sarajevo since the bombing started, sang "Amazing Grace," with Smailovic accompanying her on his cello.
Half a world away, Seattle artist Beliz Brother heard the story and organized twenty-two cellists to play in twenty-two public places in Seattle for twenty-two days, and on the final day, all twenty-two played together in one place in front of a store window displaying burned out bread-pans, twenty-two loaves of bread, and twenty-two roses.
People came. Newspaper reporters and television cameras were there. Reports came back to Smailovic that he might know what he started. Others repeat this in many cities. In Washington DC, twenty-two cellists play the day Clinton was sworn into office. Who knows who might hear? Who knows what might happen?
Perhaps other people might look upon other situations with an attitude that their presence might make a difference.
The year is 1982 and Wayne Silby and Terry Mollner make a difference. As financial investors, they dream of creating opportunities to invest in mutual funds that are socially and politically responsible. They start the project with one bold ideal: to not invest in any company doing business in South Africa. In 1982 only a few brave souls did anything about apartheid. But within a short time, a huge movement of investors had joined together, including city and state governments, universities and other business and financial institutions. The impact on South Africa was historic. "The divestment movement in America was a huge significant factor in ending Apartheid," says Nelson Mandela.
The year is 1972. The place is somewhere between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It is a place where Jews and Arabs, who were always hostile to one another, are separated by community, language, culture and schools. Father Bruno Hussar grew up a Jew in the Moslem land of Egypt wanted to try and end the hostilities. At age sixty, he and a few friends leased a large stretch of barren land in hopes of building a place where these two ethnicities and religions could come together. In 1972, Neve Shalom / Wahat al-Salam was born. It is known as, "the oasis of peace." There, Jewish and Palestinian families live side by side, sharing gardens and homes. Teachers from the School for peace there also serve as ambassadors, sharing their training in Northern Ireland, the barrios of Los Angeles, and other troubled places. They hope to spread their message of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding to all war-torn areas.
The year was 1942. Andre Trocme and his wife Magda lived in the community of Le Chambon – a village in the south of France whose ancestors were persecuted by the Catholic Kings. All their lives the people of Chambon heard how their forebears had taken courageous stands for justice. Now it was their turn. Andre and Magda agree with the city council that they should volunteer to be one of the villages to help harbor fugitive Jews and other minorities fleeing the persecution of Nazi Germany. When the Jews start arriving they take them in knowing that the German soldiers would punish them severely for helping. Over and over they take them in. Some, like Andre, are taken to prison. But never does their spirit die or their convictions whither. Afterwards when someone asks why they took such risks the most common response is a simple shrug of the shoulders, saying, "It was the right thing to do."
The year is 1992. In Oakland California, members of the Unitarian Church wanted to reach out to the people who were devastated by the fires – people who had lost their homes and people who had fallen ill and needed care. But there were too many people in need and not enough members of the church to go around. One woman, whose only skill was making quilts had an idea. She began getting the members of the church to cut out and stitch squares with their own individual handprints on them. A number of people worked to put the squares into blankets. The quilts that were made were passed around to those who were cold, who fell ill, who were lonely, so they could feel the healing touch of all the members of that church.
JOYS AND CONCERNS
PRAYER OF AFFIRMATION
RITUAL OF RESTORING BALANCE
The time is now. The place is here. The people are us. It is not hard to see problems around us every day. Hardships can sometimes weigh heavily against us. With so much that needs to be done it can seem like no single one of us could make much of a difference on anything. The balance is too heavily weighted to the problems. But with a commitment to do ordinary things with extraordinary care, making a difference can become a possibility. Without this commitment, cynicism and despair rule the day.
I ask you now to come forward with your ordinary gifts and turn the tide of cynicism toward hope. It may be with just a commitment to smile, to visit a neighbor, to introduce people to one another, to invite someone to dinner. But whatever it is becomes a beginning, from which anything becomes possible.
The time is somewhere in the future. We don’t know exactly when. Or where. But somewhere, people have begun to live as though anything worth believing in is actually possible. In such a town a memorial service is held. Not for the people who died for lack of hope, but for all the doubt and cynicism that died when people found their courage.
Brothers and sisters, let us gather to remember our fallen friend, "I Can’t." "I Can’t" lived a long, long time. And more than anyone else I knew, he was true to his word. Brother "I Can’t" never did do anything he didn’t think he could do. None of the things he doubted came to pass. To his credit, he was never convicted of trying to hard or wanting too much. He got, it seems, just what he expected and, to some people’s thinking, just what he deserved.
There were those who thought brother "I Can’t" would have gone on to live forever. But they were proved wrong. They were shown the error of their ways by sister "I Can," by brother "I Will" and by Dr. "No-Doubt-About-It."
We will miss brother "I Can’t." He made life much easier for many people. He took so much pressure off us. He kept us from exerting much effort. He kept us from hoping too high. And just by the virtue of having known him so well, we have come to appreciate the life he has left us with. A life of new possibilities. A life of hope. A good life.
Farewell, Brother "I Can’t." We wonder if you will find peace – but we think we already know the answer.
HYMN # 396 "I Know This Rose Will Open"
The year is 2050. In a large European city – one that has survived many past wars – in an open square in the city center – there is a rather odd civic monument. It is a bronze statue. Not a soldier or politician. Not a general on a horse, nor a king on a throne. It is the figure of a rather common man. Sitting in a chair. He is playing the cello. Around the pedestal there are bouquets of flowers. If you count, you will always find there are twenty-two flowers in each bunch. The cellist is a national hero. He is remembered for playing in the face of war. In a time where the only sound anyone could hear was the sound of war, he played until people could hear something more important.
In the year 2050, somewhere on Wall Street a shrine exists with a chain of human beings holding hands. Women and men, old and young, gay and straight, black, white, yellow, red and brown of all sizes, shapes and abilities. Beneath, there is a long list of names - the people who had the courage to invest in a world of such possibility. Your name would be on it. And mine too.
In the year of 2050, somewhere between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: An open market place with Jews, Christians, Muslims gathering to shop, eat, learn, pray, talk, laugh, think, sleep and dream. There too, stands a statue of a man who was naïve enough to think the unthinkable. Persistent enough to make it come true.
In the year 2050, somewhere in France: A monument stands to the forgotten hiding places. People gather from miles around to see places where people hid in fear. People stand amazed. No one can imagine such a thing. It has been years since anyone ever had to hide from anything. People gather to see the unimaginable and praise the imagination that overcame it.
In the year 2050, A quilt exists. It is passed from country to country. On it the hand prints of every citizen.
Listen. Never, ever, regret or apologize for believing that when one man or one woman decides to risk addressing the world with truth, the world may stop what it is doing and hear.
There is too much evidence to the contrary. When we cease believing in peace, the music surely stops. The myth of the impossible dream is more powerful than all the facts of history. In my imagination, I lay flowers at the statue memorializing Vedran Smailovic – a monument that has not yet been built – but may be.
Meanwhile, a cellist plays in the streets of Sarajevo. To the Glory of Life
HYMN – "We’re Gonna Keep on Moving Forward"
Edward Everett Hale:
I am only one
But still I am one
I cannot do everything
But still I can do something
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.