At this time of the year the word ‘Peace’ has front of stage. It’s on Christmas cards, street signs and sung in carols. This is because the prophet Isaiah heralded the arrival of Jesus as the ‘Prince of Peace’.
Peace: (n) freedom from disturbance; tranquillity; a state or period in which there is no war or a war has ended
During Christmas and the New Year period many of us reflect on the past 12 months and anticipate the year ahead. My thoughts this year are turning to the idea of peace, what it means to be ‘at peace’.
I have decided that peace can be a mindset amidst chaos, unrest and normal everyday life. When our children were small with screaming toddlers and defiant tantrums, there could be peace in the craziness. At a global level, after the unrest has subsided the ‘peace keepers’ are sent in. They monitor the peace processes and implement peace agreements. As 17thC Dutch philosopher, Baruch Spinoza famously said, “Peace isn’t the absence of war… it is a state of mind.”
I choose peace.
In the past week, in my city, Sydney, in my nation, Australia and as a global citizen, peace has been shattered by events of unthinkable horror. We grieve, mourn and pay tribute to those who are directly impacted, and for those of us as observers, we find it difficult to reconcile and often maintain peace.
But if we think deeply about this, lasting peace is the result of a decision of many, rather than a decree of one. It does not operate in a context of fear. It does take brave people to make a stand. As a community we can decide to strive for, maintain and keep peace.
Immediately after the #SydneySiege many in our community sought peace. One person’s warped religious worldview was not going to turn a community against the entire Muslim faith and the #illridewithyou movement arose. Many people decided to be peacekeepers when they could have opted for war.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Holocaust survivor and philosopher, Viktor Frankl
As much as the micro level, we can be peacekeepers in our communities. It doesn’t mean being a doormat for the ‘sake of peace’. But it may involve taking a stand, in a respectful way, there may even need to be a battle before peace can be achieved. The essence of it is to consider the community as a whole, before my rights as an individual.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (from the letter of St Paul to the Roman church in 60AD)
As I enter 2015, this will be my North Star. There is an individual response to peace, that can collectively make a significant difference.