by sr. Paulette Schroeder….published to give tribute to Elie Wiesel, to speak of the possibilities of communities pulling together…to speak of the Nonviolent Cities Campaign…….
Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, a Romanian-born American Jewish writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor, wrote 57 books including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Because I heard Wiesel speak in person at Central Catholic High School in Toledo in the 70’s, I wanted to read NIGHT and again experience to a small extent how human beings can lose sight of the dignity of each human being as happened in the concentration camps.
Even after his horrid experiences in the camp, Elie said: “We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasure.”
I have experienced the truth that when such a conviction becomes the mindset of individuals, violence virtually ceases. That hope and dream alive in our society and our world stays with me as I continue to reflect on my most recent moments of huge crowds assembled at the Seneca County Fair! The 1100+ people who visited Project Peace and Pax Christi’s booth “Nonviolent Cities Campaign” were no doubt aware of the thick cultural darkness surrounding us here in the United States.
However, in countering the darkness, I wish I could bundle up all the energy, all the goodness of the fair goers I met as they supported their children trying to master skills in booth games, in agriculture, animal husbandry, housekeeping, and in sewing. Numerous times, I saw people greeting each other and stopping to chat with friends and neighbors. At the end of the Fair Week it seemed to me that we’d all want to say: “Let’s continue this kind of kindness and compassion, this neighborliness. Let’s make it the rule of our town and county.”
I think the annual Fair is truly a gift to Tiffin and to Seneca County. This year’s 175th. celebration did, I think, what the founders of the first Fair must have dreamed of doing—i.e. bring people together to know each other, to celebrate all the good things happening in our towns and county.
I think, too, that the Fair is an example of the hopes of the newly founded “Tiffin Nonviolent Cities Campaign.” This campaign is going on in 50 cities across the United States, and it is our hope that Tiffin will be the 51st. city to be an intentional city of hospitality and peace. We hope that Tiffin becomes that beacon of light on the hill for all people—a town where residents and visitors will experience peace as the core of who we are and what we do as we offer hospitality to all. In time, it is our hope that there will be efforts made by the various entities of Tiffin, i.e. industry, schools and universities, the town’s merchants, police, firemen, people in recovery, the Sisters of St. Francis, social services, people with mental and/or physical challenges, and people having economic difficulties to work toward deeper, stronger relationships with each other. Everyone will be in a real sense on a level plane raising one’s voice, coming to know each other, and sharing life together.
So much good can be envisioned when the goal for our town is appreciating each other mutually—growing in respectful relationship, looking out for each other so that no one falls “through the cracks.”
Project Peace and the Nonviolent Cities Campaign
Sr. Paulette Schroeder For more information, 419.447.0435 ext. 136