CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 February 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Let there be peace

We have long become accustomed to images of security forces in our streets or on television screens bristling with armaments, shields and batons. Our compliant viewing is at least a tacit admission that we do feel security when shielded by our threats of violence.
 
This image dominates international agreements, even to the extent that peace negotiations are carried out under what is termed tight security.
 
Despite these precautions, experience has taught us the futility of the search in this imbalance, or balance, of power approach, as conflicts tend to drag on because the basic issues are never settled and no seeds have been sown for peace to bloom.
 
As often as we pray to God to kindle in the hearts of men and women a love of peace and grant to the hearts of those who take counsel for nations the desire to pursue a path of tranquillity, our prayers never seem to be adequately answered.
 
The urge to hanker after peace, as salvation can only be acquired in peace that the Buddhists pray for, or the consciousness that violence causes harm to our creator that a Taoist prayer counsels, or the realisation that the whole world is owned by all, somehow never seems to take root.
 
There is a strong temptation to think that peace is the absence of war, but even if we could somehow get rid of the weapons there would still be no peace, as the roots of the weapons would remain and it is inevitability they would grow again.
 
This gives a context to the prayer, “By the Buddha’s mercy, may all evils be eradicated and good roots increased… so the Buddha’s wisdom may be penetrated.”
 
These prayers call for a nonviolent approach to disagreements, whether they be among nations, groups of people or individuals.
 
Even as the words of military commanders tell us time after time that in war there is no such thing as an unwounded soldier or unwounded civilian, nations, groups and individuals continue to fumble when they strain to look beyond the tried and failed model of aggressive standoff.
 
But while all of the great religions believe that God is a God of mercy and that peace is the desire of God for the world, we still find difficulty in imaging peace as anything other than an absence of violence.
 
Yet peace is a positive, something of beauty and not just an empty void embracing the absence of aggression, but still it remains elusive and the closest we seem to be able to come to touching it is talk of nonviolence.
 
This may still not be peace, but it is a step towards a discovery, as it at least dramatises issues to the point they cannot be ignored.
 
Jesus commanded that we love our enemy, but his appeal has proven to be an elusive call and difficult to live out.
 
As a woman from Timor-Leste commented during her country’s struggle to throw off Indonesian colonisation, “I am an old woman and I have spent most of my life at war. Somehow I want to die in peace. Jesus told us to love our enemies and I fear we have been derelict in this regard and failed to adequately love our enemies.” JiM