Prayer for Peace

Rev. Douglas Taylor (Unitarian Universalist)

For the “Interfaith Vigil for Peace” held at the Jewish Community Center

March 9, 2022

(Barely two weeks into the Russian war on Ukraine)

Two days ago, renown cellist Yo-Yo Ma played a concert at Kennedy Center which he began with the Ukrainian National Anthem. Earlier that same day, Yo-Yo Ma was reportedly seen by several people playing his cello alone outside the Russian Embassy. A lone cellist, playing in protest to the violence.

It is reminiscent of the protest by Vedran Smailovic 30 years ago during the 1992 Bosnian war. Smailovic was the principal cellist of the Sarajevo Opera at the time and witnessed a bombing that killed 22 people. So, the next afternoon, dressed in his formal concert attire, Smailovic set up in the place where the shell had burst and he played Albinoni Adagio in G Minor. He returned day after day to the same place to play the same piece. He played for 22 afternoons while the war ravaged the city around him. He played one day of music for each person killed in the explosion.

Blessings upon cellist Yo-Yo Ma this week for reminding us of this act of courage and defiance, of protest and beauty, this prayerful call for peace and dignity in the midst of violence and destruction.

A reporter had asked Smailovic 30 years ago, what he was doing, what he hoped to accomplish, if he might not be a little crazy – risking his life to play his cello in the middle of the street in the middle of a war day after day. Smailovic responded:

“You ask me if I am crazy for playing the cello. Why do you not ask if they are not crazy for shelling Sarajevo?”

Let us be grateful for the reminders we find in these days. Reminders that we need not be drawn into responding to violence with more violence. Reminders of courage and human dignity, reminders that offering beauty in the midst of violence can be an act of prayer and of protest. We are still here. We still care about our world. The human spirit is stronger than this war, and peace will prevail on earth.

O Spirit of life, God of us all

We gather for healing and for peace this day

We see conflict in the world and indeed even in our own hearts

We long to build a peaceful world and to be a peaceful people

We pray: may we be restored and made whole

We pray for peace in the world,

for peace among all nations and people

For peace in our neighborhoods

and in our families and for peace in our hearts

But not only for peace, O God, we pray also

For hope and human dignity, for grace and strength to lift us up

With humble voices we lift our hearts seeking a balm

When we are discouraged help us know we strive not in vain

Fill us, O Spirit with faith and with courage

And with the audacity to believe we can make a difference

And that peace will one prevail on earth.

In the name of all that is holy

We pray

May it be so