A group of children standing around a table

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[Source: Photo courtesy of Becca Renk]

Yesterday I attended mass. Instead of a priest, the mass was celebrated by Nicaraguan children—10 fourth- and fifth-grade students.

The kids led the congregation in prayers, passing of the peace, read the gospel and shared a homily. They invited congregants to share reflections on the reading—the Good Shepherd—and they blessed wine and soda crackers and served communion.

As I watched, I thought, “This is the way it should always be, we should be following the children, not the other way around.” Why listen to old white men who stand behind so many pulpits the world over when the children can teach us so much more?

These kids have already learned all of life’s important lessons. They already love each other, they already recognize the divine in each other, they already respect each other. These kids won’t preach hate or war. In their homily, they tell us that their good shepherds are their parents and teachers; but I believe our good shepherds are these children.

A person and a child holding a wine glass

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[Source: Photo courtesy of Becca Renk]

I am struck by the hope that this model of the children leading the congregation is a reflection of a larger global shift. Worldwide, we have begun to see countries from the Global South preaching from the pulpit, so to speak: South Africa taking Israel to the World Court for the genocide of the Palestinian people. Nicaragua taking Germany to the International Court of Justice for aiding and abetting Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people. Namibia arguing before the ICJ that, because it has suffered occupation and colonialism, Namibia “considers it a moral duty and sacred responsibility to appear before this court on the question of the indefensible occupation of Palestine by Israel.” 

Just as these children shepherded us in a mass that was every bit as dignified as any mass ever said by a priest, so is Nicaragua shepherding the world. Nicaragua is a small country from the Global South that is modeling consistency and dignity—and choosing peace every step of the way. Just in recent days, Nicaragua has:

  • Broken diplomatic ties with Ecuador following its flagrant violation of international law and diplomatic norms when police raided the Mexican Embassy in Quito and forcibly removed former Vice President Jorge Glas, who had been granted political asylum by Mexico. In its statement, Nicaragua expressed “forceful, emphatic and irrevocable repulsion, in light of which we take our Sovereign Decision to break all diplomatic relations with the Ecuadoran Government, at the same time we express, once again, our warm and consistent consideration to the beloved Ecuadoran people, who are living through times of inconceivable brutality, and we ratify, once again, our adherence to International Law and the Conventions that govern civilized relations between the States and Governments of the World.”
  • Reminded the UN that the U.S. still owes Nicaragua reparations and requested that these now be paid. In 1986, Nicaragua won a case against the United States wherein the International Court of Justice ruled that the U.S. repeatedly violated international law by training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying the Contra paramilitaries in Nicaragua; attacking Nicaraguan infrastructure; putting mines in Nicaragua’s ports; imposing an embargo on Nicaragua; and encouraging the Contras to commit atrocities that violate international humanitarian law. In 1988, the ICJ ordered the U.S. to pay $12 billion in reparations, which would be at least $31 billion today.
  • Brought Germany to the ICJ for aiding and abetting Israel’s genocide of the Palestinian people. Given its experience in the court successfully arguing the above case against the U.S. as well as many other cases in the intervening years, Nicaragua wanted to use its experience at the ICJ to benefit of the Palestinian people in an attempt to stop the genocide being perpetrated against them.
  • Summed up its consistent and dignified approach in its message at the Economic and Social Council Forum on monitoring financing for development at the UN: “We reaffirm Nicaragua’s commitment…to reducing poverty and inequality; to multilateralism, international law, and the assertion, exercise and defense of our sovereignty; and to the relationships of equality based on friendship, mutual respect, cooperation and solidarity.”

With Nicaragua leading and the Global South now lending its voice, it seems clear that the world will pivot on Palestine. While the U.S. and Europe continue to facilitate genocide by arming Israel, the Global South calls for a cease-fire and stands in solidarity with Palestine. As the children conclude mass with hugs and high fives all around, it seems especially fitting to me that the trajectory of the world be determined by our response to the genocide in Palestine. After all, Jesus was a Palestinian living under occupation, and he taught us that, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

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