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08.10.2016 Democracy Now!
Colombian President Wins Nobel Prize for Peace Accord, Days After Deal Loses National Referendum
(Image by Democracy Now!)

We go to Bogotá to get reaction to the selection of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner for his role in pursuing a peace deal to end the nation’s 52-year-old civil war. The move comes after Colombians rejected the peace deal just this past Sunday in a nationwide referendum. Nobel Peace Prize Committee. “It would have been better … if the [peace prize] had been granted both to President Santos and to Rodrigo Londoño, the head of the FARC,” says Daniel García-Peña, who was Colombia’s high commissioner for peace from 1995 to 1998. He is a professor of political science at the National University in Bogotá. García-Peña is also the founder of the organization Planeta Paz, or Planet Peace, dedicated to building grassroots participation in the Colombian peace process.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has been chosen to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for his role in pursuing a peace deal to end the nation’s 52-year-old civil war. The move comes after Colombians rejected the peace deal just this past Sunday in a nationwide referendum. Nobel Peace Prize Committee Chairperson Kaci Kullmann Five announced the award earlier this morning.

KACI KULLMANN FIVE: The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that had cost—has cost the live of at—lives of at least 220,000 Colombians and displaced close to 6 million people. The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people, who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to this peace process. This tribute is paid not least to the representatives of the countless victims of the civil war.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the Nobel Peace Prize Committee announcing this morning that this year’s award goes to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his role in pursuing a peace deal to end the nation’s 52-year-old civil war. The conflict began in ’64, has claimed 220,000 lives. More than 5 million people have been estimated to have been displaced. Kullmann Five was asked whether the Nobel Committee considered including the leader of the FARC rebel group in the award; she refused to comment on the selection process.

For more, we go now to Bogotá, Colombia, where we’re joined by Daniel García-Peña. He was Colombia’s high commissioner for peace from ’95 to 1998, a professor of political science at the National University in Bogotá. Professor García-Peña is also founder of the organization Planeta Paz, or Planet Peace, dedicated to building grassroots participation in the Colombian peace process.

We welcome you back to Democracy Now! Your response to the award to President Santos?

DANIEL GARCÍA-PEÑA: Well, in the first place, I think that it’s very welcome news. It highlights the fact that the Colombian peace process has had much more support in the international community than it has had here in Colombia. And I think the hope is that this award will help motivate not only President Santos, that has been committed to this process, but all the parties involved, so that the process can continue despite the negative vote of the referendum.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And where does Colombia go from here, after the rejection of the peace process, in terms of the potential resumption of hostilities?

DANIEL GARCÍA-PEÑA: Well, the good news is that all the parties, even those that have voted for the “no,” including ex-President Uribe, have stated that they do not want a return to the war. The ceasefire that was agreed upon has been continued. And talks began a few days ago between the ex-president, Uribe, and those that supported the “no” in the referendum, with President Santos and the negotiating team to see what they can figure out to move the process forward. There is still no clear indication of how that can take place, of what the specific actions can be taken. But I think that the first reaction on all parties, that we look for solutions to move forward, is positive.

And the reaction of the Colombian people has also been very important. There was huge marches in Bogotá and throughout Colombia the day before yesterday that demanded that the process continue. So we all hope that this news of the Nobel Peace Prize can help to move things in the right direction.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in about a minute that we have left, your reaction to President Santos receiving the award, but not the leader of the FARC?

DANIEL GARCÍA-PEÑA: Well, I was a bit surprised. I think that there’s no doubt that President Santos has had a huge role. His perseverance, his dedication is very important and merits the recognition. But I also think that it’s important to recognize the decision on the part of the FARC. Their role in all of this has been very, very important from the beginning. And their reaction, in fact, to the defeat of the referendum has also, in my view, been very important. They’ve state over and over again that they do not want to return to war, that they are committed to peace. So I think it would have been better, in my view, if the award had been granted to both President Santos and to Rodrigo Londoño, the head of the FARC.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, less than half of the population voted. What was it? Maybe 40 percent. What is your sense, if more people had been involved?

DANIEL GARCÍA-PEÑA: Well, it’s hard to say, but I think that there’s very specific issues that you can look at. The fact is that the Hurricane Matthew, that is now hitting the coast of the United States, was just beginning in the Caribbean. And the day of the vote, the whole northern coast of Colombia was swamped by rain, and so the voter turnout was the lowest precisely on the Atlantic coast, while the—that area voted overwhelmingly for the “yes.” But if the voter turnout had been just the same—the same degree that it had been throughout the country, maybe the vote would have been different.

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel García-Peña, we want to thank you for being with us, Colombia’s high commissioner for peace from 1995 to ’98, professor of political science at National University in Bogotá and founder of Planet Peace.

This is a sermon that I preached this Sunday (8/14/16), at the Washington City Church of the Brethren. The scripture readings for this sermon were: Hebrews 11:29-12:2 and Luke 12:49-56
Listen to the sermon on SoundCloud

Sermon Text:

This passage from Hebrews that we just heard: It’s got to be one of the most frequently referenced parts of the Bible. I’ve heard it preached from the pulpit many times. It’s been the theme Scripture for church conferences and events. And it’s been the subtext for so much of church life.

This idea that we are surrounded by this “cloud of witnesses,” that we are a part of a long line of spiritual family. That the struggles we engage in today are part of a bigger picture. It’s a powerful, comforting image.

Back in 2010, Faith and I helped to organize a gathering of young adult Quakers in Wichita, Kansas. It was a gathering that would bring together Quakers from across North America, and across many of the theological and cultural barriers that divide modern-day Friends (and, as I understand it, modern-day Brethren, too).

Most of the gathering took place in a large church sanctuary. The space was ornate and cathedral-like, at least by plain Quaker standards, and it was far bigger than either we in the gathering or the local congregation had need of. In addition to the ample seating in ground level pews, there was also a large, wrap-around balcony – a gallery filled with empty seats.

I remember standing in the sanctuary with one of the members of the pastoral care team for the gathering, and older woman from New England. It was a quiet moment in the church building, before most of the participants had arrived. We were taking a deep breath before the heavy spiritual lifting that would come in the next few days. She looked up into the balcony level and said very seriously. “I can feel them. I can feel the cloud of witnesses.”

It was a comforting idea, but also a challenging one. That cloud of witnesses wasn’t just there to affirm whatever we decided to do. They had an agenda. If those Quaker saints who had gone before us were indeed present, they would be watching to see whether we could bridge the divisions that had developed over the last two centuries. They would be present to encourage us – but also to spur us towards hard conversations and spiritual risk-taking.

I think that this passage from Hebrews is easy to take out of context. We often stretch and bend the idea of the “cloud of witnesses” until it becomes something that is primarily about our own comfort. I don’t know if any of you remember that movie from the mid-90s – Angels in the Outfield? Honestly, don’t really either. I think I saw it once back in 1994, and I don’t remember a lot of detail. But here’s the basic idea of the film:

In the movie, the Los Angeles Angels are the worst team in Major League Baseball. But there’s a little boy who loves the team, and he wants them to win so badly that he prays and asks God to help them win the championship. To his surprise and amazement, God sends angels to miraculously catapult the team into first place. Only the little boy can see the angels, but the effects of their work is clear to the whole world as the Los Angeles Angels go from being the worst in the league, to the best.

It’d be nice to have a cloud of witnesses like that, wouldn’t it? A group of angelic figures that could carry us to glory, even if we’re not at all ready for it. If the “cloud of witnesses” were like the angels in the outfield, we’d always have these invisible cheerleaders – spiritual support for us when times are tough and victory seems impossible. The cloud of witnesses would become an angel army. They’d exist to reinforce our own dreams, our own wishes, our lives as they are. They’d give us strength to make our dreams come true.

And sometimes this might be the right idea. If we’re experiencing hard times, if we’re suffering for our faith and paying the consequences for following Jesus, we need the presence of this encouraging cloud of witnesses more than anything. We need to know that we stand in a line of courage, endurance, and victory in the cross of Jesus. Knowing that, by the grace of God, many others have run this race and been faithful, we’re encouraged to persevere, even when it feels impossible.

But most of the time, at least for me, I experience the cloud of witnesses as a challenging presence in my life. These are people who, as the scripture says:

“…were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, they were sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”

This cloud of witnesses are no “angels in the outfield.” They’re not here to give me victory without suffering or pain. They are witnesses to the full cost of discipleship. They demonstrate the kind of hope that is only possible through bearing the cross of Jesus in this world. These are people who inspire us, people who challenge us, whose lives confront our own compromises and give us courage to do what is right.

I think we all have our favorite members of the cloud of witnesses, our own personal gallery of saints that have come before, who spur us to greater faithfulness. One of these witnesses for me is a man named James Nayler. James was one of the most visible leaders of the early Quaker movement in the 1650s. He was a gifted evangelist, spreading the gospel across England. His campaign of preaching in London had a powerful impact, growing and solidifying the Quaker community there.

The 1650s were a time of tumult and upheaval in England, and Quakers were often arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for their faith. James Nayler had a rougher time than many. He was charged with blasphemy by Parliament, and he narrowly escaped the death penalty. But honestly, he might have been better off if they had hung him. His punishment was grotesque: He was given a public flogging of hundreds of lashes. After that, they branded his forehead with “B” for “blasphemer” and bored his tongue through with a hot iron, so that he could never preach again with his renowned eloquence. After that, he was imprisoned until he was physically ruined.

When he finally did get out of prison, he tried to make his way back to Yorkshire, to see his family for the first time in years. On his way, he was robbed and beaten severely. He was found by passersby and died the next day in the home of a Quaker physician.

I mention James Nayler this morning, because I believe he is a prime example of what the author of Hebrews referred to when he spoke of the cloud of witnesses – this heritage of saints who have run the race and endured the cross as an example and encouragement to us.

And I think that Hebrews 11 and 12 were on James Nayler’s mind, as he lay dying in the north of England. Those who attended him recorded his final words, which included this description of what it meant for James to be a living member of that cloud of witnesses – to find himself in communion with them through his own suffering and martyrdom:

“There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself. It sees to the end of all temptations. As it bears no evil in itself, so it conceives none in thought to any other. If it be betrayed, it bears it, for its ground and spring is the mercies and forgiveness of God.

Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned; it takes its kingdom with entreaty and not with contention, and keeps it by lowliness of mind. In God alone it can rejoice, though none else regard it, or can own its life. It is conceived in sorrow, and brought forth without any to pity it; nor doth it murmur at grief and oppression. It never rejoiceth but through sufferings; for with the world’s joy it is murdered. I found it alone, being forsaken. I have fellowship therein with them who lived in dens and desolate places of the earth, who through death obtained this resurrection and eternal holy life.”

The cloud of witnesses that James experienced were no “angels in the outfield.” They did not save him from suffering, nor give him victory in the eyes of the world. Rather, he encountered a spirit that walked with him through that dark valley of shame and defeat. This spirit gave him the power to love, even those who flayed the skin off his back, branded his face, and mutilated his tongue. Through his suffering and baptism into “love unfeigned,” James Nayler found fellowship with the lost and forgotten saints of God – who through death, obtained resurrection and eternal holy life.

Our gospel reading today reminds us that the kingdom of God comes through challenge. It causes division wherever it emerges, because it challenges our basic ideas about what is right and fair. The truth is, none of us want to experience the cross. Not even Jesus did! The most natural thing in the world that we could do is seek to avoid death, suffering, and shame.

But what Jesus reveals and the cloud of witnesses repeats, is that beyond the cross lies resurrection. On the other side of suffering, and torture, and shame lies the eternal holy life and love unfeigned that James Nayler and so many saints before him discovered. The cloud of witnesses bears testimony to each one us through the Holy Spirit, spurring us on to greater courage in the face of heartbreak, death, and loss of identity.

Unlike the angels in the outfield, this cloud of witnesses is not about helping us win the “game” of this world. Instead, they walk beside us, encouraging us as we learn how to lose in such a way that we experience the resurrection life in the midst of struggle, so that we ourselves become part of that cloud of witnesses, reflecting Christ’s self-giving love to others who need it.

Before I close, I want to take us back to that church sanctuary in Wichita, Kansas. I want you to stand with me on that lower level, amidst the pews. Look up with me into the gallery. Who are the witnesses that you see there? Who are the saints who have gone before you that encourage you even in the midst of confusion and pain? Can you see the faces of the people who have carried their cross with courage and joy? Can you see them smiling on you with love?

Where are they calling you? What parts of your life need to change so that you can embrace the kind of courageous living that they did? Even in the face of resistance and division, where are we being called to change so that we can bear the cross of Jesus, and become a cloud of witnesses to the world around us?

Related Posts:

What Does it Mean to Follow Jesus in the Age of Trump?

Will the Real Church of Jesus Please Stand Up?

Happy birthday, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn (Aug. 7, 1890 – Sept. 5, 1964)! ‪#‎Communist‬. ‪#‎Feminist‬. ‪#‎Suffragist‬. Union organizer. Free speech advocate. Wobbly (member of the I.W.W.). Founding member of the ACLU. Fiery orator. She gave her first public speech at the Harlem (NYC) Socialist Club when she was 16 years old, on the topic “What Socialism Will Do for Women.” Arrested and jailed many times during her activist career. Served two years (1955-1957) in the Federal Prison Camp near Alderson, West Virginia. In 1957 she ran for New York City Council as a Communist. In 1961 she became national chairwoman of the Communist Party of the U.S. Author of “The Rebel Girl: An Autobiography” (1955), among other works. A close friend of Dorothy Day for decades, Elizabeth left her small estate (books, clothing, furniture) to the New York Catholic Worker House. Born in Concord, New Hampshire. Died in Moscow, Russia. Buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

L'immagine può contenere: 2 persone

Happy 76th birthday, Troy Perry (born July 27, 1940)! Founder of the Metropolitan Community Church, a Christian denomination for the LGBTQ community. Eldest son of the “biggest bootleggers in northern Florida,” Troy considered himself a “religious fanatic” and a born preacher from an early age. He was licensed as a Baptist minister at the age of 15, and at 19 he married a minister’s daughter named Pearl Pinion. They had two sons and spent many years moving around from one church to another, until one day Pearl found Troy’s copy of “The Homosexual in America” (by Donald Webster Cory) under the mattress. Their marriage ended soon after. His bishop directed him to confess his sexual sins from the pulpit, and resign. In 1968, after a suicide attempt, Troy felt a call to return to faith and start a church where gay people would be welcome. He placed an ad in The Advocate (at the time an L.A.-based gay newsletter), and on Oct. 6, 1968 twelve people showed up for the first service in his living room. By 1971 the congregation was able to dedicate their own building with over 1,000 members in attendance. Today MCC has over 300 congregations in 18 countries. In 1972 he published his autobiography “The Lord is My Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay.”
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

Am I Next?
I was shocked, along with the rest of the country, when I witnessed the video of white police officers gunning down a prone and defenseless black man – Alton Sterling –  in Baton Rouge. It’s one thing to be aware of police brutality, it’s quite another to witness a police officer pull out his pistol and kill an unarmed citizen, execution-style. 

It took my breath away when, almost immediately, the video of Philando Castile’s murder hit social media. For the second time in as many days, we were seeing the police assassinate a black man – this time, in front of his girlfriend and child. Again, I knew that these sorts of things happened. But two videos in one week was almost too much to bear.

The whole country was in shock. It felt like there was a real chance that we might wake up together. I believed that White America might finally be able to acknowledge the violence and oppression that black folk have been experiencing at the hands of police for generations. I felt hopeful that these tragic deaths might lead to a real change of heart for white people in my country – and an era of deepened justice and freedom for my black brothers and sisters.

Following the senseless murders of five police officers in Dallas, I don’t feel so sure anymore. The whole atmosphere has changed. Racist bullies of all stripes have found the opening they need to demonize the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The window of clarity and consciousness that was opening now seems to be crashing shut.

I don’t know how we move forward at this point. I can’t tell anyone how we clean up a mess this deadly, one that spans generations and continents. What I do know is that courageous black folk are going to continue to insist that black lives matter, too. The rest of us have a choice as to whether we are going to listen and respond in love.

White folk like me are being challenged to answer whether we will continue to lift our voices in support of full equality under the law for all black people – regardless of how the media portrays them as “deserving” or “undeserving” of freedom. Will we have the courage to embrace the discomfort that comes with the systemic change and spiritual transformation that this country so desperately needs?

This has been a devastating week. Our hearts are broken. It’s hard to know how to respond. But one thing we can say – which we must say –  is that we stand with our black brothers and sisters. We recognize their struggle in the face of terror and oppression. Even if we can’t fully understand it, we must acknowledge that the pain they’ve experienced all their lives is real. We must pledge ourselves to stand as repentant sinners, partners in the work of dismantling the legacy of white supremacy that distorts our collective spirit.

Now is the time for endurance. Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to re-commit ourselves to the struggle for justice and peace in our streets – whatever may come.

Related Posts:

What the Orlando Murders Say About America

Want to Make America Great Again? Here’s How

The Friends of Jesus Fall Gathering is happening this Columbus Day Weekend (October 7-10), in Silver Spring, MD. Can you join us for this time of food, fun, fellowship, and worship? Mark your calendars, and watch for registration opening within the next week or so!

foto di Micah Bales.

Happy birthday, Vincent Harding (July 25, 1931 – May 19, 2014)! ‪#‎Pacifist‬. Civil rights activist. Historian. Scholar. Teacher. Advocate for nonviolent social change. Harlem native. Speechwriter for Martin Luther King, Jr. Author of “There Is a River: The Black Struggle for Freedom in America” (1981) and “Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero” (1996), among many other works. In the late 1950s, Vincent became involved with the urban Mennonite churches of Chicago. In October 1957 he was installed as associate pastor of Woodlawn Mennonite Church, working alongside lead pastor Delton Franz. Over the next few years, Vincent and his wife Rosemarie moved uneasily amongst the Mennonites as they attempted to navigate the turbulent times. On the one hand, Mennonite leaders were interested in showing off this dynamic young African-American minister, but on the other hand they were less interested in hearing about Vincent’s radical vision for the church. Vincent had the audacity to call on Mennonites to abandon their social isolationism and put their nonviolent ideals into action. In 1961, the Hardings established the “Mennonite House” in Atlanta, right around the corner from Martin and Coretta King’s home. Thus began a period when the Hardings were torn between the urgencies of the struggle for civil rights and their commitments to Mennonite institutions. Vincent’s repeated calls to action fell on deaf ears, until finally he and Rosemarie realized they could no longer allow Mennonite timidity to hold them back. The Hardings left the Mennonites so that they could fully immerse themselves in the civil rights movement. The Mennonite Church has yet to recognize the opportunities that were missed by failing to take the Hardings seriously.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

Happy birthday, Barbara Deming (July 23, 1917 – Aug. 2, 1984)! ‪#‎Feminist‬. ‪#‎Pacifist‬. LGBTQ activist. Writer. Poet. Civil rights activist. Anti-war activist. Women’s rights activist. Advocate for non-violent social change. War tax resister. Involved in a long-term relationship with writer/artist Mary Meigs. Born in New York City. Died in Sugarloaf Key, Florida.
~The Mennonite Matriarchal Movement Heroes Series.

foto di Mennonite Matriarchal Movement.


Happy birthday, Ruth Ellis (July 23, 1899 – Oct. 5, 2000)! Legendary gay rights activist. Ruth was an out lesbian from the age of 16, when she realized she was gay. In her twenties, she met Ceciline “Babe” Franklin, the woman who became her life partner. In 1937, Ruth and Ceciline moved to Detroit where Ruth started a printing business. Their home became a meeting place and refuge for the African-American gay community. Later in life Ruth became a well-known figure in the broader LGBT community, nationally as well as locally. She died in her sleep at the age of 101.
~The Mennonite Matriarchal Movement Heroes Series.

foto di Mennonite Matriarchal Movement.

Am I Next?
I was shocked, along with the rest of the country, when I witnessed the video of white police officers gunning down a prone and defenseless black man – Alton Sterling –  in Baton Rouge. It’s one thing to be aware of police brutality, it’s quite another to witness a police officer pull out his pistol and kill an unarmed citizen, execution-style. 

It took my breath away when, almost immediately, the video of Philando Castile’s murder hit social media. For the second time in as many days, we were seeing the police assassinate a black man – this time, in front of his girlfriend and child. Again, I knew that these sorts of things happened. But two videos in one week was almost too much to bear.

The whole country was in shock. It felt like there was a real chance that we might wake up together. I believed that White America might finally be able to acknowledge the violence and oppression that black folk have been experiencing at the hands of police for generations. I felt hopeful that these tragic deaths might lead to a real change of heart for white people in my country – and an era of deepened justice and freedom for my black brothers and sisters.

Following the senseless murders of five police officers in Dallas, I don’t feel so sure anymore. The whole atmosphere has changed. Racist bullies of all stripes have found the opening they need to demonize the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The window of clarity and consciousness that was opening now seems to be crashing shut.

I don’t know how we move forward at this point. I can’t tell anyone how we clean up a mess this deadly, one that spans generations and continents. What I do know is that courageous black folk are going to continue to insist that black lives matter, too. The rest of us have a choice as to whether we are going to listen and respond in love.

White folk like me are being challenged to answer whether we will continue to lift our voices in support of full equality under the law for all black people – regardless of how the media portrays them as “deserving” or “undeserving” of freedom. Will we have the courage to embrace the discomfort that comes with the systemic change and spiritual transformation that this country so desperately needs?

This has been a devastating week. Our hearts are broken. It’s hard to know how to respond. But one thing we can say – which we must say –  is that we stand with our black brothers and sisters. We recognize their struggle in the face of terror and oppression. Even if we can’t fully understand it, we must acknowledge that the pain they’ve experienced all their lives is real. We must pledge ourselves to stand as repentant sinners, partners in the work of dismantling the legacy of white supremacy that distorts our collective spirit.

Now is the time for endurance. Now is the time for boldness. Now is the time to re-commit ourselves to the struggle for justice and peace in our streets – whatever may come.

Related Posts:

What the Orlando Murders Say About America

Want to Make America Great Again? Here’s How

Happy birthday, Grace Lee Boggs (June 27, 1915 – Oct. 5, 2015)! ‪#‎Feminist‬. ‪#‎Socialist‬. Civil rights activist. Philosopher. Writer. Died at the age of 100. Author of “Living for Change: An Autobiography” (1998) and “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century” (2011), among other works. Born in Providence, Rhode Island. Died in Detroit, Michigan.
~The Marginal Mennonite Society Heroes Series.

foto di Marginal Mennonite Society.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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