Peacemaking is a way of life

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Midland Daily News, January 19, 2005

 

Peacemaking is a proactive, not passive, way of life. If individuals put as much effort into making peace as they did in making war, our international policies would be very different. What if we spent as much money on making peace in the world as we did on our military?

 

Where does peacemaking begin?

 

The prayer of St. Francis says, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me." Unity Church for its annual world day of prayer in 2003 modified that prayer to read, "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with God's love in my heart."

 

Very clearly peace making begins with each and every one of us, right here in our local family, neighborhood, town, school, work place, and even in our churches. My and your efforts at peacemaking will spiral out in an ever-widening sphere of influence. With peacemaking at the center of our lives, it will influence all of our actions. For Christians, it is right out of the Gospel: be a good neighbor and love your enemies. I suspect most religions have similar mandates.

 

A modern example of peacemakers is Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life we celebrate this month on January 17.

 

Actions at the heart of peace making include reconciliation, examining and getting rid of our prejudices, acting in a spirit of cooperation rather than competition, performing acts of kindness, and exercising forgiveness.

 

Reconciliation

There are probably few people who don't know someone from whom they are estranged in some way. It could be family disputes that have lingered on for years or friends misunderstanding each other or coworkers competing for promotion. Reconciliation begins when one person reaches a hand out to the other in the dispute. It is completed when the other person accepts that hand. There is a peace between them.

 

Prejudice

We all hold prejudices for and against various people and ideas, but we weren't born with them. As the song in South Pacific says, "you've got to be carefully taught" prejudices. If we were taught them, then we can unlearn them. But we must be willing to examine them very carefully. That is challenging and sometimes frightening.

 

I have a saying posted in my office that says, "To find the truth, you must have an unrelenting readiness to admit you may be wrong." It hits at the heart of prejudice. I try to live by that.

 

Cooperation

Have you ever belonged to an organization or been on a committee where one person bosses everyone else around? It's frustrating being part of that group. Resentments build up.

 

On the other hand, being part of a group that recognizes everyone's talents and the group works together to accomplish tasks results in friendliness and camaraderie.

 

Cooperation naturally occurs after a disaster, like the tsunami tragedy that the world is still dealing with. Everyone reached out to neighbors and strangers after the attack on our country on 9-11.

 

When we cooperate with others, everyone is a winner. There are no losers. Peace settles in each of us and we act differently.

 

Performing acts of kindness

Being empathic to the checkout person at a grocery store who has been on her feet for hours handling products and numbers. Being patient with the person at a fast food place who may be getting minimum wage and barely living from paycheck to paycheck. These actions go a long way in promoting peace among our fellow human beings.

 

Forgiveness

Forgiving others who make mistakes and asking for forgiveness allows us to let go of anger and resentment. It helps us heal the hurt inside.

 

The world scene

How can this peacemaking by individuals play out on the world scene? Reconciliation  is at the heart of diplomacy. Recognizing our national prejudices would have allowed our country to take a different stance towards Iraq. An attitude of cooperation recognizes that the world consists of a family of nations trying to achieve the good of all. Performing acts of kindness on the world scene would show up in more efforts like the Peace Corps. Forgiveness recognizes that the United States makes mistakes just as other countries do.

 

So peacemaking is an individual way of life that has worldwide ramifications. Will you be a peacemaker? If you want help in being a peacemaker, check out Midland Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice or Midland Citizens for Peace or a religious community that strongly supports peacemaking.

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