Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent revolt of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution
of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.
(Bishop Oscar Romero, 1917-1980)
The news of world events is almost always linked to violence and war. In the face of the tragic situations that we see, it is easy to feel powerless and unable to bring change. How easy it is to forget that violence, war and injustice are part of the daily reality in most our cities!
The state of the world at times seems bleak and with little hope that things will change any time soon. There are probably no simple answers or easy solutions to end the violence, but there are things we can do as Christian students and professionals. Perhaps we cannot end war, but we can raise awareness and promote peace and the welfare of the majority.
The root cause of violence lies in people’s hearts. I suggest we begin by recognizing what the Bible says and sharing it with others who have the same concerns. The Bible provides an explanation of our condition, which contains good and bad news. On the one hand, the world is far from God, which has dire consequences for human beings and all creation. On the other hand, there is the hope of the restoration of all things through Jesus Christ. Though it has begun, this restoration is not yet complete; we live actively awaiting the consummation of the Kingdom of God. In the meantime, we are called to be salt and light, not to be conformed to the world: to love, to seek peace and to pursue Kingdom values and righteousness.
Violence is also the product of social and economic conditions – both poverty and greed can lead to violence as people try to get what they need or want. So a second thing we can do is recognize and repent of our selfishness and greed, which are so ‘normal’ in our world. It is common to seek health, education, food and clothing for ourselves and forget our neighbours in need. It is not necessarily bad to want what ‘everybody wants’, but selfishly pursuing it often denies others the opportunity to get those good things. Jesus teaches us to love our neighbour as ourselves: to think only about myself disregards the teachings of Jesus.
The Bible invites us to unmask the love of money and recognize that we cannot covet riches and seek the kingdom of God at the same time. In the teachings of Jesus and the book of James we find strong complaints against greed and exclusion of the poor people. As Mahatma Gandhi said: "There is enough in the world for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed."
Peace is not passive; it invites reflection, obedience, humility and actions of love.
To counter violence, we must also actively seek peace. I think this begins in our daily relationships and lies at the heart of our communities. We also ought to ask for wisdom from heaven to act righteously, with justice: ‘Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness’ (James 3:18). Peace is not passive; it invites reflection, obedience, humility and actions of love toward those close to us. Some may live far away, but we are responsible for the actions that affect them. We are called to be peacemakers, and we need to keep asking God what this means in our global and local context.