This World Day of Peace 2019

Written on: December 31, 2018

Depending on your definition of war and your source of information, the United States is currently engaged in anywhere from 0 to 134 wars! Listening to just one hour of world news would make the 0 number extremely difficult to believe no matter what the definition.

According to a Native Alaskan legend, Susitna, the Sleeping Lady will awake when peace returns to Earth and peace will return when the people of war change their ways. Now it’s important to note that Susitna is a mountain in Alaska. That being said, there may be more truth than legend to this story regarding the tenuousness of peace. So where does that leave us?

Rabbi Abraham Heschel says, “Prayer begins where our power ends.” Is it peace we must pray for or something else? Pope Francis, in his 2018 Christmas Message showed us the “something else” when he reminded us that:

The face of God has been revealed in a human face. It did not appear in an angel, but in one man, born in a specific time and place. By his incarnation, the Son of God tells us that salvation comes through love, acceptance, respect for this poor humanity of ours, which we all share in a great variety of races, languages, and cultures. Yet all of us are brothers and sisters in humanity!

To know this, to really know this, is the beginning of peace for each one of us personally and all of us communally. The whole of life lies in the verb seeing because how we see is how we act.

As a man of action Pope Francis says, “My thoughts turn to Yemen, in the hope that the truce brokered by the international community may finally bring relief to all those children and people exhausted by war and famine. I think too of Africa, where millions of persons are refugees or displaced and in need of humanitarian assistance and food security.” We must add to this the refugees at our southern border yearning for security.

So, do we pray for peace and wait for Susitna to awake, or do we pray for our own clarity of vision so that we can see with eyes of compassion these thousands of refugees not as intruders or invaders, but as our sisters and brothers seeking the same things we all seek and have a right to – a place to call home, a place to raise children in peace and security.

Perhaps reflecting daily on one of Gandhi’s Principles of Nonviolence could be a unique way of clarifying and widening our vision:

All life is one.
We each have a piece of the truth and the un-truth.
Human beings are more than the evil they sometimes commit.
The means must be consistent with the ends.
We are called to celebrate both our differences and our fundamental unity with others.
We reaffirm our unity with others when we transform “us” versus “them” thinking and doing.  
Our oneness calls us to want, and to work for, the well-being of all.
The nonviolent journey is a process of becoming increasingly free from fear.

Sister Diane Bardol is the Peace and Justice Coordinator for the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. She often writes on peace and non-violence in our world. A special interest of hers, among many, is non-violent communication.Sister Diane spent many years in Alaska and often references that beautiful part of our country in her writings.

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