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Blessed Are The Peacemakers
By Nancy Campbell
How many of you have watched the Miss America Pageant and heard the contestants try so hard to give the perfect answer to the question "What would you do to make the world a better place?" And the most popular answer is, "To have world peace?" It's a wonderful sentiment, but can we define what world peace actually means? If you look at not only the world today, but also at the history of the world, the goal of world peace can seem like an impossible vision. Over the past 3400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them - only 8% of recorded world history. We have made no moral progress. More people have died in the wars of the 20thC. Than in all the other wars that were fought throughout recorded history.
Is it possible to live non-violently in a violent world? How do we create peace in a world filled with conflict? Peace making is not the denial of conflict. It isn't naive or romantic. Nor is it like an ostrich putting its head in the sand. On the contrary, peace making starts when we recognize that our world is filled with conflict. At the beginning of 2003 there were over 30 active wars going on around the globe. We humans are born with aggression, but we can choose how to respond to it. Even if we could end every conflict on the planet, as wonderful as that would be, you might still not have peace. We need to learn how to use conflict and aggression to deepen human dignity and a sense of the spiritual. That would be real peace making!!
The Roman Empire conquered lands all over Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The leaders of the Roman Empire believed that they had the right to conquer other lands and to force the people there to live under their rules. Their power made it so that some of the people they conquered couldn't or wouldn't fight back ..... This was known as the Pax Romana, or the peace of Rome, but it didn't feel like peace to the people who were forced to live under foreign rulers. But just because the people couldn't fight back, it didn't mean they did not have something to protest and speak about.
As the song goes: "Let peace begin with me". There may be a few saints in the congregation today, but most of us are in a struggle of some sort or another. We are plagued by self criticisms: "l'm too fat, I'm too thin, my hair looks awful, I don't earn enough money, I'm not as good as my neighbour" - each one of us has our own unique litany of these internal voices. We are also plagued by regrets: III was a bad parent, I wasted my best years, I can never forgive myself." We are plagued by worries about the future: "What will happen, how will it all turn out, what can I really count on?"
Instead of collapsing under the weight of these voices, internal peace making is a positive affirmation: "I know I'm not perfect, but I love myself. God loves me, I love me, I deserve to be here." Peace making means forgiving our self, because when we hang onto regrets it's a heavy burden. Peace making means softening our self-criticism, softening our worry about the future, taking one day at a time. Peace making begins with our self. We can't end all internal conflict, but we can soften it by loving our self instead of being harshly critical.
We also need to make peace with each other. We'll look at this from two angles: Peace within our families, and peace between groups in society. Being a peace maker within our family doesn't mean peace at any price. Peace making is not about being a martyr and succeeding to our real needs and wants. It is about being honest about the joy and the pain in our family.
Peace making means opening up the line of communication. Family members are encouraged to listen to one another without judgement, shame or blame. We work towards genuine forgiveness. If a family member refuses to change or talk with us, or is even abusive to us, then peace making means setting appropriate boundaries and getting the help we need to heal our self, so we don't carry the burden of resentment. Fighting with your brother or sister is not just something that kids do. If you've had a fight with somebody, there is often a space between when the fight is over and when peace is made. That space is not fighting, but it isn't peace either. Peace requires more than just that the fighting stops. It requires healing and resolution, so that both sides feel that justice has been done. Peace making in family life is hard work, but nothing is more important than the quality of love in our primary relationships.
We need to strive to make peace within our self, within our families and with other groups in society. In order to do this, we need the courage to examine our own prejudices. We call carry prejudice. We are all pre-judging other people, seeing them as stereotypes rather than as individually unique person.
Peace making means reaching past our differences to listen to one another, to understand each other, to appreciate one another, and thus to grow closer in real friendship. What most people want is actually rather Simple. It is to be listened to, understood and appreciated. If we give that to one another, most of the misunderstandings between us can be resolved. If you want peace, work for justice. I think this is what the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah had in mind when he said; "They dress the would of my people as though it was not serious. Peace, peace, they say, when there is not peace." A few verses later there are some very interesting words of prophetic wisdom. Jeremiah says, "Take your stand and watch at the crossroads; ask about the ancient paths; ask which is the way that leads to what is good." There is a bumper sticker that reads, "If you want peace, work for justice." This could be interpreted as a threat, "You better start working for justice, or else." But of course it means that you can't really have peace until there is justice and fairness.
In this regard, Jesus gives us the ultimate challenge - to extend this understanding to our enemy. He said, "Love your enemy, bless them that curse you." When Dr. Martin Luther King led demonstrations to end racial segregation in the United States, he would often hand to his followers a card out-ling a non-violent philosophy. The central message was this: non-violence begins by seeing your opponent as a human being and a child of God. Protesters didn't have to love or approve of being mauled by police dogs or knocked over by a fire hose, but were called to love the person holding the hose or unleashing the dog. This is the power of non-violent peace making; opposing the action, but loving the person. If we hold hatred or resentment toward another human being, it's like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. We forgive, not because we are a saint or a martyr, but because we don't want to carry the burden of resentment one day longer.
Let us be non-violent peace makers, with our self, with each other, and with the world. We need to make peace with the earth. We are violently destroying the earth. Polluted air, polluted soil, polluted water, species dying off daily. What we are doing to the earth is like domestic violence. It's like beating up a family member and thinking it's okay. Well, it's not. I can almost hear the earth asking in exasperation, "What is the soul of the human being: greedy domination or loving kindness ?"
Peace making means changing how we live on earth. We have only one home - earth. The earth gives us everything we need for life, and all it asks from us is a little respect. And this simply means lowering our carbon footprint. We have to change how we live. Consuming less and being happier with a simpler lifestyle. It means thanking the earth every single day that we have breath,
We need to make peace with the earth and with other nations upon it. We need to tackle the question of war. In this regard some world leaders argue that non-violence is the only viable choice. We are so inter-dependent, that the concept of war has become outdated in many aspects. When we face problems today, we have to arrive at solutions through dialogue. Hatred never helps. Therefore, we should follow a policy of non-violence.
I am definitely not a pacifist. I recognize that the evil of Nazism or slavery in America had to be stopped. But when I read a list of the wars fought in the last hundred years, I can only find a few that J think were morally justified. The rest fit these words by the famous general and President, Dwight D. Eisenhower: "War is the failure of diplomacy." Peace making means focusing our best efforts, time and resources into diplomacy, and having war be a very, very last resort.
The probable solution is to create a just society. The huge discrepancy between wealth and poverty around the world, is not acceptable. It is a form of violence and it's time to make poverty history. That dream is within the realm of possibility, if we have the will to do it. Similarly, we must overcome all the violent "isms" in society: terrorism, racism, sexism, ageism, abJeism and all forms of bullying. Peace making is the movement toward a just society in harmony with the earth.
Each one of us is called to be a peace maker: with our self, each other and with the whole world. We can be peace makers in the small actions of daily life by following these 5 simple steps:
World peace may feel unattainable, but truly it can all start with each one of us. In a world filled with conflict, may we be the peace makers. May we fulfil! the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God." May we truly be the children of God.
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