Keeping the Vigil Alive

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith ...
—Hebrews 12:1-2

For two and a half years I have lived in this land of windmills and sparkling canals, and I have learned much from the tenacious, stubborn realism of the Dutch. Towering, dark clouds, persistent rains, and a ceaseless wind are the taken-for-granted elements within which the Dutch move and live. The character of this people is shaped in part by their age-old battle to hold back the raging sea that threatens to engulf the countryside.

Recently the Dutch have been striving to hold back another impending calamity that is historical rather than natural: the placement of Pershing and cruise missiles on Dutch soil. With fierce persistence the Dutch peace movement has worked painstakingly to build a dike of popular resistance. My participation in this effort to stay the tides of NATO "modernization" has changed me. It has also changed my understanding of hope.

After the massive demonstration in Amsterdam in 1981, I would have stated unequivocally that the missiles would never come to the Netherlands. The resistance seemed too mighty, the no too thunderous. Since that time this resistance has spread and deepened. More people than ever filled the streets of The Hague in October, 1983, in protest of the proposed missile placement. But just as Pharaoh's heart hardened as the cry of the Israelites became more adamant, the heart of the NATO establishment seems only to grow more callous and heedless of the cries of the European people.

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