Posted on: 2014-03-01

Peace on every lip

Peace, ancient human desire, today, a household concept, on every lip, not only in Nigeria, but all over the world. The value and worth of peace is firmly rooted in the Bible. When Jesus arose from the dead, he showed himself to his disciples. When he appeared to them he gave them a special gift. “I give you peace, my peace I give to you, the peace the world cannot give” (John 19). World leaders discuss peace. They call peace conferences, sign peace agreements and even raise peace-keeping forces. Churches preach about peace and charge their adherents to live in peace. Muslims declare Islam a religion of peace. When Catholics celebrate the highest form of worship, the Mass, they share by a handshake, the sign of peace.

Peace, ever so elusive
“Water, water everywhere but not a single drop to drink”, so goes the literary cliché. We might as well say the same for peace, discussed everywhere by all but in reality, so elusive. Everyday millions worldwide lose lives, limbs and property to wars, conflicts and violence. Some insist that in order to secure peace it is indeed necessary to wage war. Even people of the same language, tribe, territory and tradition often turn on each other damaging existent peace, harmony and tranquility. Even religion, meant to cultivate peace is today misconceived and misused by some as a wreckage tool to damage peace and harmonious coexistence. This singular fact of misapplied religion multiplies the tragedy of the intermittent massacre in Northern Nigeria today.

The audacity of hope
But hope has staying power! The Catholic Church still celebrates a World Day of Peace on every first day of January. The permanent Scripture reading for that New-Year-Day celebration is the blessing of God to his people through Moses and Aaron. God promised that when those words were pronounced he would not fail to bless his people. “May Yahweh bless you and keep you. May Yahweh let his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May Yahweh show you his face and bring you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Peace is thus a permanent feature on the Church’s agenda. In spite of the pervasive hopelessness, the Catholic Church will continue to charge all and sundry to urgently commit to peace-building and grow a better, more harmonious world.

The indispensable role of the Media
That is why the World Catholic Association for Communication, Signis chose for its World Congress in Rome this year, the theme: “Media for a culture of peace. Creating images with the new generation”. It is a theme inspired by the belief that the peace project can never be accomplished without the media and the new generation of youth who have so much capacity to connect, interact and mobilize across borders, boundaries, countries and even prejudices and biases. Signis, the worldwide network of Catholic Professionals has consultative status with UNESCO and with the Council of Europe. It therefore gets considerable attention from peace and human development oriented organizations worldwide. The primary objective of all its activities is to promote a culture of peace through the media. It seeks to harness the uncontested power of media for transformation through media education, advocacy, inter-religious and intercultural dialogue and truthful portrayal of different groups in society. It seeks in this way, to help individuals and group to engage in authentic communication with one another. Signis organizes, supports and promotes events that encourage a culture of peace, irrespective of the location and source of such activities, while its periodic congresses, workshops and courses help to develop similar capacity in catholic practitioners of the media.

The media are us
As I participated at the Congress alongside 300 other professionals, among which were 22 Nigerian Catholic media practitioners including priests, religious, lay men and women, I felt particularly challenged by the presenter from Lebanon. He gave staggering statistics of numerous congresses, speeches, reunions, concerts and accords which have failed to stop wars and violence while an average of a thousand lives perish daily in the Middle East. He affirmed however that peace is attainable if we get our strategies right. He then called on participants to secure the interest of the teeming social media savvy youth in the search for peace. It is their world we are destroying. Every practitioner of media has a grave responsibility of using his outlet and portal to drive home that message. Call it a game of numbers, the more people believe in and take up the peace project, the more likely it is that it will materialize. I definitely agree with him.

And we make the Good Samaritan
Yes indeed, unless peace descends from our lips into our hearts we will merely chase shadows. The 2014 World Congress of Signis agreed that Media, like other technologies of globalization have had great success in making the entire world a neighborhood. The bigger challenge to surmount is what Pope Francis asked for in his message for the World Day of Peace 2014. Let the world be turned into a brotherhood. Neighbours may live side by side and still not care much about each other. Authentic neighbours are brothers and sisters and do care for one another. That is the true neighbour of the parable of the Good Samaritan, the brother who restores life to the wayfarer struck down by the enemy (Lk. 10: 29-37).