Dorothy Klement: Spoken Verse and Artwork for Peace


Vide, ut quod ore cantas, corde credas, et quod corde credis, operibus comprobes

Bless, O Lord, us Thy servants, who minister in Thy temple. Grant that what we sing with our lips, we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts,we may show forth in our lives. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is the prayer that my church choir says each and every Sunday before we sing in our service. While it is the traditional “chorister’s prayer”, it echoes deeply within me and reminds me that it is my duty to God to show forth in my life, the fruits of God’s spirit.

لَّيْسَ الْبِرَّ أَن تُوَلُّوا وُجُوهَكُمْ قِبَلَ الْمَشْرِقِ وَالْمَغْرِبِ وَلَٰكِنَّ الْبِرَّ مَنْ آمَنَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةِ وَالْكِتَابِ وَالنَّبِيِّينَ وَآتَى الْمَالَ عَلَىٰ حُبِّهِ ذَوِي الْقُرْبَىٰ وَالْيَتَامَىٰ وَالْمَسَاكِينَ وَابْنَ السَّبِيلِ وَالسَّائِلِينَ وَفِي الرِّقَابِ وَأَقَامَ الصَّلَاةَ وَآتَى الزَّكَاةَ وَالْمُوفُونَ بِعَهْدِهِمْ إِذَا عَاهَدُوا وَالصَّابِرِينَ فِي الْبَأْسَاءِ وَالضَّرَّاءِ وَحِينَ الْبَأْسِ أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُتَّقُونَ (Q 2:177)

“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah and the Last Day and the Angels and the Book and the Messengers; to spend of your substance out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask; and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayers and practice regular charity…” (Quran 2: 177)

Similarly, Islam is highly focused on orthopraxy—to commit ones life and actions to God, not out of obligation, but in faith and love for our creator. As we see the world erupt into chaos around us, sometimes in the “name of God”, it is important to ask ourselves, who is the god that we praise and love? Is he merciful? Loving? Forgiving? Does the bible not tell us “the greatest of these [commandments] is love” (1 Cor. 13:13)? Do not ritual daily Muslim prayers announce “Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem” (In the name of Allah, most merciful, most gracious) and “Wa alaikum salaam.”? (Peace be unto you)? Shouldn’t we then represent these attributes of God in everything we do? In a world where it seems hard to justify religious action because of the countless numbers of times where it has been corrupted and representative of the devil rather than of God, it is important to remind our communities of the truth and the mercy and love that God grants us, his creation.

The painting shown above by Jim Dine (1986) depicts the two hands of nature. One palm contains an eye, which I interpret as a representation of the need for us to truly learn and visualize the peaceful world we wish to see, and commit to that vision through our actions through our actions. The other hand contains a heart in its palm and seems to represent the love that we must share through our actions. Artwork can be interpreted in any number of ways, however a piece such as this can only be concluded to represent love and benevolence. This is testament to the power of art and expression. Sometimes, to make the most influential impact, one must only use language and artistic expression to communicate the goodness that is God. The wonderful thing about this painting is that no matter which tongue you speak, you can still see a heart, worn palms, and an eye. For me the versus and the prayer that both Muslims and Christians recite each week come to life in this painting because it reminds me innate qualities that humans possess: a mixture of both the heart—our passion—and the head—our will to live fruitful lives. In conjunctions with the spoken and written passages, art such as this could have the power to move many and bring about peaceful and nurturing action and conflict resolution.