Articles : PEACE IN THE MIDST OF CHAOSPosted on: 2017-07-16
Source: Rev. Fr. Benjamin Olabode Jolasun
Naturally, every human person desires peace from the very depths of his being; peace of mind and body. As such, the peace is sought all round because it transcends all other virtues we can think of. With it all other good things can easily come by. When we desire good health, well-being, the best religion, good education, social amenities, good governance, best vocation, ideal career and profession, good wife, good husband, good car, superior house etc, it is all in view of having peace. At the heart of every nation and the world at large is for peace to reign in the land.
Ironically however, the world today is full of anti-peace activities and upheavals. We live in a world soaked in vices that breed wars. The present age and time is known for the plights of conflicts, warfare, fighting here and there, confrontations, hostilities, uproars and different battles. The amount of hate, fear – mongering, injustice, shouting down, stereotyping, passive aggressiveness, and mocking we see in the social media nowadays are so scaring. The technological advancement has also created a wide room for manufacturing of explosive devices and eventual detonations to worsen the situation. Things are disordered and disarrayed. There is confusion all over the land.
The questions that arise therefore are: how do we talk of peace in a nation like ours where freedom of worship is sometimes denied and right to just salary payment is denied? How can there be concord where wealth, prestige, recognition and appearance are most desired by the people? Can there be harmony in the world where rising crime rate spreads fear for life and property? Can there be amity where people feel anxiety about jobs, children, lovers, possessions, health and on and on? How can we experience that peace in the midst of the hue and cry of drought in many parts, disturbances costing life and property? Can the devastating rising unemployment, insecurity, quick money by nepotism, revenge, tribalism, political manoeuvring, sexual misconduct and sheer embezzlement give room for true peace to sway? In the midst of all these chaos, can we credibly live and know peace? What is peace? What is chaos? How can peace exist in the midst of chaos then?
This write-up will do justice to these questions and also draw a curtain at the epilogue.
2.0 CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATIONS
2.1 TOWARDS A DEFINITION OF ‘PEACE’
Using the words of the Webster’s Dictionary, the word ‘Peace’ means “a state of quiet or tranquillity; freedom from disturbance or agitation”. Specifically, it describes it as “absence or cessation of war, freedom from riot or violence, a state of reconciliation after strife or enmity”. In the political arena as described by Marriam Webster Dictionary, ‘Peace’ means “a state or period of mutual concord between governments”. It is “a situation or a period of time in which there is no war or violence in a country or an area”. In a broader sense therefore, “peace is security”.
In the religious parlance however, the word ‘Peace’ is derived from the Hebrew root ‘salom’ which has the word ‘salaam’ as its equivalent in Arabic. It designates the fact of being intact, complete. It implies “to be or become quiet or silent”. Biblical peace therefore, is not only the “pact” which permits a tranquil life, nor the “time of peace” in opposition to “the time of war”. It also indicates the well-being of daily existence, the state of man who lives in harmony with nature, with himself, with God. Concretely therefore, it is blessing, rest, glory, riches, salvation and it is life. (Cf. Isaiah 26:3, Psalm 29:11, John 14:27, 1 Peter 5:7, 1 Cor. 14:33, John 16:33 etc). Hence, Pope Francis in his Audience with Children of the Peace Factory, May 12, 2015, said: “Peace firstly means there are no wars...but it also means that there is friendship between all, that everyday a step ahead is made for justice, so that there are no more sick children who do not have the possibility of receiving healthcare”. This shows that “peace is concord in a life of fraternity” (Cf. Xavier Leon-Dufour (editor), Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2004).
2.2. TOWARDS A DEFINITION OF ‘CHAOS’
Etymologically, the word ‘chaos’ is from the Greek word ‘khaos’ meaning “vast chasm or void”. The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘Chaos’ as “a state of total confusion with no order”. In the same expression, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary puts it as “a state of complete confusion and lack of order”. In the same way, the Webster’s Dictionary describes it as “a condition of utter disorder and confusion”. It is therefore synonymous to disorder, confusion, bedlam, mayhem, anarchy, pandemonium, commotion, disarray, turmoil, tumult, havoc, disruption, upheaval, furore, frenzy, uproar etc.
3.0 THE CHAOTIC WORLD CRYING FOR PEACE
The world and particularly our nation had descended into political anarchy, economic chaos, social disorderliness, moral havoc, educational disorganization, religious commotion etc. Politics in the world today are according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in 1982, “degenerating into personal antagonism, harsh words, character assassination, half truths or even falsities, unsuitable language in radio, press and television and intolerance of other views and political options”. Electoral defeats today are received with rancour bringing about hullabaloo. More so, money is immoderately and unjustly pursued and desired by many. Many people acquire money through unjust and dishonourable ways, such as armed robbery, embezzlement of government or company funds, kick-backs on government contracts and invoices, buying over of people for political, economic or other aims.
In addition, many now get involved in anti-peace and immoral activities of direct killing, abortion, kidnapping, euthanasia etc. Worst still, education that should have been the necessary practical effort of the nation in helping the citizens to acquire morality is nothing to write home about. What are our children been taught in many of our schools today? Are they given conducive environment to learn? Many of the schools lack competent teachers to teach the way of peace. In fact, we can say that the present educational system no longer leads to that happy and peaceful productive and successful life that once characterized it. Surely, the smallest error in training may be capable of having deleterious effect on a child’s subsequent performance in a position of authority.
Likewise, there have been religious rivalries, crises and tensions especially along the two main religions professed i.e. Christianity and Islam. As such, the wonders of the national salvation which God alone can bring about are not forthcoming. Instead of the religions to preach and maintain peace, it is war we experience and hear daily on the different social media platforms.
“To be in good health” and “to be in peace” are two parallel expressions (Cf. Ps. 38:4). As noted erstwhile by Pope Francis, Peace implies that “...everyday a step ahead is made for justice, so that there are no more sick children who do not have the possibility of receiving healthcare”. What do we have to say about our health services? Many of our hospitals are not well facilitated. It is as if healthcare is meant only for the rich why the poor ones die at will. It is very clear that it is only a few that enjoy the richness of our resources, by trailing of millions of naira, numerous houses, money laundering, a fleet of vehicles and other entities of comfort. While uncountable millions of people cannot afford decent living, our leaders in different capacities lavish money. In our own case, the rich are becoming richer and the poor becoming poorer. There is visible practice of self-extravagance of nobility as our leaders and the rich would not empower their lazy followers but kept giving them money. The resultant effect of this is that these people in turn, become liability and thugs in the community when these rich people die or leave the political offices. What a chaotic world!
All these exposed cankerworms put the world in disorder. But are there ways out?
4.0 WAYS TO FIND PEACE IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS
Some pertinent questions come to every noble mind here. How do we search for peace in a world that has become highly divisive and loud? How does one serve peace in the midst of discord and all pervading suspicion? How is justice to be tendered where the few rich and powerful are squeezing the very life out of the vast multitudes of our poor and powerless people? Is it possible to reinstate peace amidst myriads of serious problems facing the nation; unemployment, breakdown of social services, hospitals still often no more than consultation clinics, hunger and malnutrition, despair and moral disorientation of the youth, misery and neglect of the aged, social and political insecurity, corruption and incompetence among the leadership etc?
As noted by Xavier Leon-Dufour in the Dictionary of Biblical Theology, as man desires peace in the midst of chaos, he is frequently ignorant of the nature of the benefit for which he intensely aspires; and the paths he follows in order to obtain it are not always the ways of God. There is no doubt that only God can give the total gift of peace amidst chaos, but man ought to cooperate in its establishment on earth as well. Let us therefore consider the below few tips to live peacefully even in the chaotic world:
- 1. TAKE TIME TO PAUSE TO PRAY
Everyone has a moment of commotion. When we are facing anxiety, it is time to turn all our worries over to God. According to Thomas Merton, “Prayer does not blind us to world, but it transforms our vision of the world”. In times of high anxiety, very few people take the time to pause before responding to others. The more anxious we are, the more we should set aside to pray. If everyone took just a half hour to pray every day, it would change the world. Without mincing words, man obtains peace through confident prayer. Psalm 116:6 says: “pray for peace over Jerusalem! May those who love you be in security!” Pope Francis affirmed this in his Audience with “Peace Factory”, Initiative that favours multi-ethnic Integration to use language of peace, May 10, 2015 thus: “... peace itself is a gift of God, a gift to ask for trustfully in prayer”. He further said: “Peace has a face and a heart: it is the face and heart of Jesus, the Son of God, who died on the cross and rose again to bring peace to every man and to all humanity”. Hence, St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians 2:14 says: “For He Himself is our peace”. He further adds in Philippians 4:6-7 thus: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
- 2. GET COFFEE WITH SOMEONE WHO THINKS DIFFERENTLY
There are some who see others as their enemies. According to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, “if you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You need to talk to your so called enemies”. Those whose views we find repulsive should be invited and talked to. Not only that, but also hear them out. You may not come to agreement on everything but you will walk away with more understanding, more compassion. And our chaotic world today needs more of that.
- 3. “BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD” (MT. 5:14)
Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that”. We can have the peace we desire if everyone; teachers and students alike can internalize the injunction of Jesus Christ as in Mat. 5:44: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. It is better to light a candle than to cause darkness.
- 4. FIND TIME FOR SILENCE
According to Pope Benedict XVI, “silence is an integral element of communication, in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth”. Teachers, students and all and sundry must imbibe the virtue of silence to better the world with the divine gift of peace.
- 5. LEARN TO LET GO
According to Melody Beattie, “letting go helps us to live in a more peaceful state of mind and helps restore our balance. It allows others to be responsible for themselves and for us to take our hands off situations that do not belong to us. This frees us from unnecessary stress”. Our governments, teachers, students and everyone must exercise this to be at peace even in the face of pandemonium.
- 6. PRACTICE JUSTICE
Peace is the fruit and sign of justice. Peace is attained through an activity of justice. To attain peace even in the face of chaos, we need to fight against injustice and evil and promote goodness, justice and peace at every opportunity. Peace according to Xavier Leon-Dufour “is the sum of the benefits granted to justice”. Knitting all of these together, Pope Francis once said in his Audience with Children of the Peace Factory, May 12, 2015 that; “where there is no justice, there is no peace. We are all equal – all of us – but this truth is not recognized, and for this reason some people are, we can say, happier than others. But this is not a right. When we do not see this, society is unjust. It does not follow the rule of justice, and where there is no justice, there cannot be peace”.
5.0 EPILOGUE: TOWARD A PEACEFUL SOCIETY AMIDST CHAOS
We must admit that Peace is inside us and is not dependent on external circumstances. We may think of peace as living in a world without war, fear, financial despair and panic. More likely, peace means calling upon inner and outer resources to find a calm within. Peace is not about avoiding trouble, work and hardships. Rather Peace is the ability to remain calm in the midst of life’s challenges. No one is specifically peaceful. The whole world feels a bit threatening. Many of us find ourselves in a tumultuous and unsure state of being. We are filled with fears and worries – about losing our homes, jobs, retirement packages, freedom. We are concerned about the state of our nation – war here and there. Each day presents a new struggle we must grapple with. There is no doubt these are tough times.
We must not forget that happiness does not come as a result of getting something we do not have, but appreciating what we do have. As we can see in the case of Gideon and Ahab in the Bible (Cf. Jg. 8:9, 1Kg. 22:27ff), peace can be said to be a state of conquering or defending; it is victory over enemy. We may not be able to get rid of some difficult situations and chaos, but we need to be happy with what we have. Pope Francis in his Homily on ‘Happiness’ admonished thus: “Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without accidents, work without disappointments. To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures”. As Friedrich Nietzche once wrote, “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star”. More so, in chaos at times, there is fertility. As such, Peace, far from being only an absence of chaos or war, is the fullness of happiness. Therefore, in the words of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in the Communiqué issued at the end of the First Plenary Meeting held between 13th – 17th March, 1984 in Lagos, “in grim realities and agonizing problems, we should see Hope”.
Peace is a daily commitment. It comes through justice and love. Only in God can we find true, total and lasting peace. Prayer, penance, and works of mercy serve peace and move towards reconciliation. Our Mother Mary played an important role in restoring peace to the then troubled country of Portugal. In the verses three and four of the prayer composed for the celebration of the Marian Year in Nigeria and the centenary appearance of Our Lady at Fatima in Protugal, we too entreat thus:
“We come to you especially, Our Lady of Fatima
In this Centenary of your appearance in Portugal
When you brought peace to that once troubled country
And as we mark that historic moment this year
We beg of you to do the same in our country, Nigeria
Obtain for us that peace which can only come from Heaven
Peace in our hearts, homes, places of work and our nation
May the celebration of the Marian in Nigeria
And the eventual re-consecration of our country
To your Immaculate Heart, restore total peace”.
Let us therefore make our own the injunctions of the Apostle Paul to the Christians of ancient Rome: “Do all you can to live at peace with everyone” (Rom. 12:18). We must bear in mind that Peace and work are inseparable. As such Pope Francis further asserted in his Audience with Children of the Peace Factory, May 12, 2015 thus: “peace involves work, it is not about staying calm and doing nothing. NO! True peace means working so that everyone has a solution to the problems, to the needs, that they have in their land, in their homeland, in their family, in their society”.
Conclusively, it is a truism that peace comes through justice and love. Little wonder then that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in the Communiqué issued at the end of the First Plenary Meeting held between 14th – 18th March, 1989 in Lagos, submitted thus: “the road to national greatness is justice, peace and love”.
Cambridge Dictionary. Peace and chaos.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2015). Peace and Chaos. Retrieved Webster.com/dictionary/peace and chaos.
Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, Special price 7th edition.
Pope Francis, Audience with “Peace Factory”, Initiative that favours multi-ethnic Integration to use language of peace, May 10, 2015.
Pope Francis, Audience with Children of the Peace Factory, May 12, 2015.
Rev. Fr. Chris Anyanwu et al (Eds), Our Concern for Nigeria: Catholic Bishops Speak, 2015.
The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language, Encyclopaedic Edition, 2004.
Xavier Leon-Dufour (editor), Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 2004.
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