T he wolf shall lie down with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
From Isaiah Chapter 11
Two billion Christians around the world read this prophetic passage from the ancient prophet Isaiah in this season that leads to Christmas. Of course, Christians interpret this passage as pointing toward Jesus’ birth, but Isaiah is read from many perspectives.
“In this season, we all repeat the words: ‘A little child shall lead them.’ But do we really mean that? I mean, a child!?!” That’s how international peace activist and author Daniel Buttry opened a reading at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit this week.
Because Buttry is a Detroiter, the city’s main seminary serving students from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds chose Advent to honor the release of Buttry’s latest book, Blessed Are the Peacemakers. The book is packed with 80 inspirational stories of real-life peacemakers Buttry has spotted in his many circles of the globe to promote peace, under the auspices of his own denomination, American Baptist Churches.
On a snowy evening, a crowd gathered to hear Buttry read some of his moving stories about famous—as well as largely unknown—peacemakers. He did not disappoint his listeners, moving immediately to stories of largely unheralded men, women and children.
“How many of you have ever heard of Choc’late Allen?” he asked the crowd. No hands rose. “No one? Well, Choc’late Allen made her most remarkable contribution to peace at age 13! Here’s what moved her: She was concerned about the murder rate in her home of Trinidad. You know how concerned we are about murder rates here in our country. Check the latest data on this and you’ll find that Trinidad and Tobago rank among the highest in murder rates worldwide. Even though she was a child—just 13—Choc’late Allen took action that has sent ripples around the world.”
Then, Buttry read one of the shortest stories in his new book, this one just a single paragraph about Choc’late Allen:
These ideas about peacemaking are potent! In 2007 on the island of Trinidad, a 13-year-old girl had been reading about the life of Gandhi and decided to act on his teachings. Choc’late Allen was concerned about the high levels of urban violence around her, so she began 12-hour-a-day fasts at local libraries, reading books about peace aloud to children. Her actions drew widespread attention and soon she was traveling around the Caribbean, especially to urban centers such as Kingston, Jamaica, where her message reached thousands. Choc’late declared: We have the power of making the right choices! We have the power of accepting responsibility for our action! We have the power of doing anything!”
Choc’late Allen isn’t the only child in Buttry’s book. A much longer story in the book involves Mayerly Sanchez, who was 12 when she revolutionized peacemaking in her native Colombia. For the crowd in Detroit, Buttry read the entire Sanchez chapter, which is available in Blessed Are the Peacemakers. (He also wrote a shorter version of Mayerly’s story in the OurValues column earlier this year.)
“When we think we cannot do anything, when we think the violence is to great, when we want to give up,” Buttry told the crowd, “just think of these men, women—and children—who have lead thousands toward peace. We say it every year, but we have forgotten the power of the words we are repeating. And, these words are true! A child shall lead us. Just remember Choc’late Allen and Mayerly Sanchez.”
Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.