INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE – A CALL TO CONTINUE OUR JOURNEY AS PEACEMAKERS
By Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican
This year, 2013, September 21st is designated as International Day of Peace. Each year, the United Nations invites all people and nations around the world, to hear and respond to the call to create a peaceful world. This Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the UN General Assembly. It was “designed to create a specific time each year, to concentrate the efforts of the UN and its Member States as well as the whole human race, to promote the ideals of peace and to give positive evidence of their commitment to peace in all viable ways.”
This year there is a specific call to address and eliminate bullying and to practice civil discourse in homes, schools, churches, communities and government, or wherever it is practiced. The call to practice and live peace is for all human beings, regardless of age, color, creed, class or place of origin. All are invited to participate. Peace is badly needed all over the world at this time. We must believe that peace is indeed possible and the Spirit will show us the way to live in peace and harmony wherever we are.
What are some of the ways that groups can be engaged in creating a just, peaceful and inclusive society?
The first and most important thing is to pray and reflect on the meaning of peace and ways to be involved. Invite God to remove all the obstacles in our minds and hearts and allow God’s peace to fill them with light, hope and peace. Include all people in this endeavor. Each has something to offer to make peace a reality in our time and place. Gather in small groups and choose some way they can be involved.
Educators have an important part to play in working for peace. Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, said:”It is not enough to teach children to read, write and converse. We must teach them to have respect for themselves, for others and for the world in which we live.” Children need to learn ways to be respectful to each other wherever they are. They can create posters and share their plans for peace-making. Reach out across lines of color, class and creed and demonstrate that peace is possible. Teach children ways to be civil and respectful in their relationships. Plan activities to learn about and share their efforts at peace-making. Plan a celebration to share how they are working for peace and harmony. (Do a Google Search for World Peace Day 2013.)
What can Faith Communities and other organizations do to work for peace? Mahatma Gandhi once said that “We must be the change we want to see happen.” We can learn about ways to address anger and resentment and participate creatively and peacefully in our interactions. Conflict Resolutions Skills are available for children and adults to learn about ways to have peaceful interactions and to resolve conflicts.
Commentaries on the need to work for peace can be sent to media at a local, state or national level. Writing to legislators at all levels about justice and peace issues is very important. Encourage them to choose peace and not war to solve problems. Explain to them that violence only begets more violence. The money used for wars is needed to help those struggling with life issues and ways to live with human dignity and have needed resources. Margaret Mead once reminded us, “Never doubt that a small group of committed, thoughtful people can change the world. In fact it is the only thing that ever has.” All of us need to confront continuing and expanding poverty, dependency, hostility towards immigrants and refugees. How can we resist a culture of growing violence at every level of society? We as a nation continue to use violence as a means of solving problems. By looking at the underlying causes of violence, we can help stop using bandaid solutions in solving problems. We need to work to identify what caused the problems in the first place, and then to choose a different path.
Diverse groups can come together and share ideas and plans and design life so that no one is excluded from it. Create communities where people can live in harmony and use their diverse gifts to bring new life to our world. Think of the common good. What kind of world do we want to leave to future generations?
People anywhere can celebrate the International Day of Peace. It can be as simple as lighting a peace candle, engaging in prayer and meditation on peace, working with children and families to create peaceful ways of living and relating. This is the work of a lifetime. Take this opportunity to bring peace to our relationships, our nation and our world. Imagine a world that is peaceful, and have children and other groups express it in words and actions. Npo effort is too small to make a difference.
A RENEWED CALL TO CREATE A CULTURE OF PEACE
by Sr. Brenda Walsh, Racine Dominican
In recent times, there is an increase in violence at local, state and national levels. All kinds of violence plagues many communities, leaving some people wallowing in darkness and despair. The solution belongs to the entire community . Each one of us, regardless of age, condition, class, culture or religious affiliation must be part of the solution.
As we prepare for the International Day of Peace, it is a good time to reflect on the issue and plan to do our part to create a peaceful community, nation and world. To accomplish this task successfully, we must spend time each day in prayer and contemplation and invite God to direct our path, show us how to remove the obstacles, and allow Divine Light to replace the darkness.
The United Nations Education Program – UNESCO- provides excellent ideas to help us to create a culture of peace and non-violence.( For the full report go to http://.unesco.org/new/en/bureau-of-strategic-planning/them) . We are reminded that wars begin in the minds and hearts of people. It is in the same place that the defense of peace must be constructed. The peace we build must be built on a secure foundation, not just on political and economic arrangements , but upon an intellectual and moral solidarity with all of mankind. This has been a long-time endeavor of UNESCO – o promoter of mutual understanding while working to eliminate discrimination, intolerance and violence. We are called to learn to live together by fully participating in the infinite wealth of the cultures of the world and by averting the fear reflex when confronted with “otherness.” This calls for a genuine and lasting dialogue, to rethink the values of cultural diversity and to bridge cultural and religious barriers as well as to break stereotypes and to turn people away from violence . We must also rethink our relationship to the economy , to society, and the environment, because the future challenges of humankind do require collective response. This kind of solidarity can result in a culture of peace and non-violence. Sustainable development will help people live their lives with dignity, peace and hope.
What can we do to create a culture of peace?
Adults must model for children and youth what it means to live in peace. Show them there are other ways to solve disputes besides engaging in violence. They can be taught peace -making skills, and conflict resolution can be taught in schools and other groups to help people create peace in hearts, homes and communities. Often our nation uses war and conflict as a way of solving problems. Write to legislators and urge them to find peaceful ways of solving problems and diverting some of our resources toward peace-making and justice issues. We need to learn from people of other cultures and respect and use their gifts in our communities. Review and reshape the ways we relate to them. Work toward respect and peace in our homes, in our interactions and relationships with them. May God’s peace fill our hearts, our homes, our nation and our world.
Faith communities can reach out to people, those standing on street corners or belonging to gangs and give them soul food to meet their needs and help them redirect their lives. Don’t be afraid to challenge their behavior and show them ways to practice peace.
We must believe peace is possible and continue the peace-making endeavor in all its forms. Involve the whole community in coming up with solutions. Think of a pebble cast into the water. It will create ripples. Each ripple joined with others can create a force for good and made a big difference. May we continue our journey with peace, faith, hope and love. No effort is too small to make a difference. With God’s help we can transform our communities and world from one of violence and war to one of peace and dignity for all.
What peace means to me…
In a country, Peace is a term that most commonly refers to an absence of aggression, violence or hostility. Peace isn’t the absence of violence but rather the presence of justice. In a society, peace happens when different desires are in one agreement. Peace is based on many things, culture, education, family values, experience, & history (to name a few) but the basis is the same----to co-exist without war, killing, & overpowering a fellow being.
According to me, Peace is the feeling that all's right with the world. When everyone around me in my family, my friend circle and my neighbourhood is happy, eager to love, accept and relate… I feel at peace. Also, to me it means following what my heart says and sharing mutual trust and respect for people around me.
However, in today’s world, peace and harmony face various threats. Terrorism, regional imbalance, economic disparity, and social inequality are some of the factors which threaten peace today. We all are so engrossed in our busy lifestyles and yet want our lives to be peaceful. We expect that peace to be omnipresent but what we need to realize is the fact that if we want peace- we have to live peacefully, love everyone, forgive, forget, etc.
It’s not enough to stand around asking if world peace will ever happen because that won’t do anything. Actions speak louder than any words. If everyone starts living the peaceful, loving way, things will change. But someone has to start and lead by example. Mahatma Gandhi once said "You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
We can’t rely on anyone else to do this. We have to do these ourselves.
Acceptance, compassion, and tolerance are the foundation of peace.
Mahatma Gandhi showed that peace ends suffering and oppression, not by warring against an enemy but by bearing witness to wrongs and allowing sympathy and common humanity to do their patient work. Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa lived different aspects of peace, which was proven to be a viable way to achieve great things.
In the end, I would like to conclude by presenting this touching poem I found on net, which describes that peace takes the form we give it.
I took a walk the other day
and I asked Peace to come with me.
We walked in silence most of the way
Peace whispered that she
had something to say.
She sang a song about Peace on Earth
and held my hand in friendship
She looked into my eyes
in a compassionate way
She danced like the wind
on a calm summer’s eve,
and then breathed a sigh
which calmed my nerves.
She made a wish that,
by her hand,
wars would end
oppression would end
And Justice would reign.
Peace took me in her arms
and rocked me to sleep
And while I dreamed,
Peace became me.
A LAST WISH
I loved you with my heart,
I loved you with my soul,
But the world kept us apart,
And gifted my heart, with a painful hole…
My life is short and I will die,
But just once, can’t I say good bye..?
I want to look in your eyes,
And say “don’t cry...”
I know that I won’t find you,
You are thousand miles away.
Can’t these borders be erased?
Just for today?
I remember the day,
When you went away,
To fight with bullets and guns,
To run with pouring blood n wounds,
As if they were your companions.
I could sense something wrong,
Unaware of the unlucky star.
My senses proved me right,
You were among the prisoners of war...
My tears went dry,
And my fears started to cry,
I didn’t know whether,
You would live or die...
And now my life is on its verge,
Life is slowly drowning,
And death is waiting to emerge.
My last wish is that you come to my funeral,
And sing me a dirge…