by Erin Brown, Lutheran Office for World Community [about the author]

Since October, the Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC) has participated in weekly prayers for peace at the Church Center for the United Nations. At every service, we lift up prayers for all people impacted by violence and destruction caused by the numerous conflicts happening worldwide. At a recent service, members of an organization called Flame of Hope led the reflection, bringing with them a lantern illuminated with a flame recovered from the aftermath of the atomic bomb drop in Hiroshima in 1945.

This flame has traveled across the globe, visiting memorials, schools, museums and places of worship. At every location, individuals who visit the flame are invited to bring forth prayers and wishes for the future. And as more of those prayers and wishes are added to the flame, this fire that originated from destruction no longer burns as a reminder of the pain and trauma of the past. Instead, it is transformed into a beacon of hope, illuminating a path toward a future filled with peace.

The fire has also been united with several other eternal flames from around the world that carry this same message – one of those being the eternal flame at the gravesite of civil-rights leader the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This week in the United States, we remember and celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Fifty-six years after his assassination, we are still called to continue to, as he said in 1959 during the March for Integrated Schools, “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a better person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” This call to action still presses us forward today – not only in this nation, but around the world.

LOWC, along with many faith-based organizations advocating at the United Nations, have been attending meeting after meeting there focused on the consequences of global conflicts. Systemic issues around the world continue to violently divide us all. And without leaders intentionally addressing the root causes of these conflicts, it becomes ever more clear that the violence we constantly witness will vociferously propagate. Two weeks ago, the International Crisis Group posted an article listing ten conflicts to watch this year, pointing to the fact that more and more global leaders are using military force. And while diplomatic efforts to end fighting are failing worldwide, there is a growing belief these leaders using military force can get away with it.

We need leaders who are dedicated to the path of peace and resist the trend of violent intervention. We need leaders who have ears that are willing to listen and learn from the stories of others, especially the stories of our international colleagues and partners.

We need leaders who are brave enough to hope, because hope does not mean passively waiting – but giving witness, knowing that change is possible when you are brave enough to imagine it. A flame of hope is something all of us need, illuminating a path toward a future filled with peace and justice for all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erin Brown (she/her) is the first ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow placed with the Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC) in New York city. Before joining the LOWC team, Brown worked at Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan as a fellow in cross-cultural ministry. She is passionate about multicultural exchange, language and the power of storytelling. A candidate for consecration as a deacon through the Lutheran Diaconal Association, Brown completed her diaconal internship as a youth and family minister at Iglesia Sola Fe in San Sebastian, Costa Rica. She has taught English to university students in Colombia and to Haitian adults seeking refuge in the greater Boston area, and speaks English, Spanish and Haitian Creole!