Headline: The Indispensable Peace Project

Posted on: 2014-12-31

Peace is indispensable

Next to the gift of life peace must be man's most cherished value. Only the dead can ignore the dividends of peace. No surprise that when Jesus was born, the message of the angels and other heavenly spirits proclaimed peace. "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those whom God loves" (Lk. 2:14). Of course to demonstrate that this divine wish touches everyone we read: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life" (Jn. 3: 16). So peace is an eminent ingredient of the common good. That is why it is said that man's greatest blunder has been in trying to make peace with the skies instead of with his neighbours. Many institutions and individuals in the world take inspiration for their existence in the need to establish and maintain peace.

Agents of Peace

The Catholic Church would be prominent among those who would invest in the peace project. As the year 2014 drew to a close a rare piece of good news emerged. The Vatican and Canada had facilitated the restoration of diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, bringing to an end a 50-year-stalemate between the two nations. For all it is worth that feat opened up possibilities of interaction hitherto considered impossible between the two countries and their citizens. It reminds skeptics that peace and reconciliation are always possible. The world of today needs much more of such "peace surprises". Would that such were possible today between Israel and Palestine, Russia and the United States and other such feuding countries, not to talk of countries assailed by terrorist groups; the Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabab in Kenya, and ISIS in Syria. Individuals too did their part as agents of peace. Perhaps the point man of such effort was the young Mahlala Yousefzai, the teenage student who became the youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace, for her selfless effort in promoting the education of the girl child. Such organizations and individuals deserve the gratitude of everyone for without peace there can be no true humanity, no true development, no true community.

The World Day of Peace 

The Catholic Church commits its worship and liturgy of January 1st annually to pray and work for peace in the world. That celebration, tagged "The World Day of Peace" draws a yearly message from the Pope, generally addressing issues about peace among families, individuals and peoples in the world and restates the Church's effort and commitment  to the peace project. The day's Scripture reading recalls God's directives to Moses, Aaron and Aaron's sons and his promise to bless his people whenever they ask him to. "Say to Aaron and his sons, thus you shall bless the sons of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you: The LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you: the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace". (Num 6: 22-27). Irrespective of what disasters and tragedies may have occurred in the outgoing year, that passage of Scripture is always read. Understandably so, for it portrays man's undying longing for peace.

Peace message for 2015

2014 has been quite turbulent especially in Nigeria where sustained terrorist activity, violent conflicts, the Ebola disease, human trafficking, ritual killings, kidnapping, armed robbery and all sorts of vices took most of public attention. In his message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, Pope Francis proposed that the only way to establish peace in the world is to see one another, no longer as slaves but as brothers and sisters. The message entitled precisely "No Longer Slaves but Brothers and Sisters" is like a continuation of 2014. In it he advocated "the desire for a full life... which includes a longing for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced". The pope stated that corruption, the erroneous notion of the human person which allows him or her to be treated as a mere object, the denial of the humanity of another and the disrespect of the dignity of others are the factors which invariably rupture the peace of all humanity. He listed many faces of slavery, yesterday and today which have made the subjugation of man to man possible and enabled the deprivation of rights and freedom to fellow human beings. He spoke of forced labour, slave labour, forced prostitution, trafficking of people for organ sales and kidnap victims of terrorists especially those used as sex slaves, sold several times over and even eventually killed. He lamented even more the indifference which seems to generally accompany these unfortunate realities among the authorities.

All must invest in peace

Calling for a shared commitment to end the tragic situation of conflict, bloodshed, violence and human misery in the world today the Pope commended  the "often silent efforts which have been made for many years by religious congregations" to support victims of the situation in spite of the threats and blackmail against them. He acknowledged that the effort of the Church alone cannot end human suffering and misery and establish peace. He challenge States to establish laws that protect the dignity of everyone; intergovernmental organizations to combat transnational crimes, businesses to prioritize human rights and civil society organizations to awaken consciences and uproot the culture of enslavement. All are enjoined to globalize fraternity not slavery or indifference. What beautiful New Year Resolution this would be if all could adopt it!

According to Robert M. Pirsig, "Peace of mind produces right values, right values produce right thoughts. Right thoughts produce right actions and right actions produce work which will be a material reflection for others to see of the serenity at the center of it all".