Blessed are those who make peace. They will be called God’s children. [Matthew 5:9 (GW)]
While walking in the Botanic Gardens, I noticed a pole similar to one I’d seen at the city park. On each of its sides, the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” are written in different languages. I don’t know who placed these poles but they are just two of more than 200,000 that have been erected in over 180 nations. Symbolizing the oneness of mankind and our shared wish for peace, they stand as a visual reminder to pray for peace on earth and to think, speak and act in the spirit of harmony and peace.
Thirty-five years ago, the United Nations designated today as the annual International Day of Peace (commonly called World Peace Day). In 2011, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate it as a day of cease-fire and non-violence. They ask every person and nation to halt hostilities and fighting for this one twenty-four hour period. Unfortunately, I doubt the world can make one hour, let alone twenty-four, without aggression, hostility and bloodshed. Hopefully, you and I can go longer than twenty-four hours without conflict or violent behavior!
The causes of world conflict are many and, according to the UN, include poverty, social inequality, hunger, dwindling natural resources, water scarcity, environmental decline, disease, corruption, racism, and xenophobia (an intense fear of foreigners). This year’s theme, “Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace”, continues the UN’s focus on finding ways to overcome those causes. By 2030, they hope to see an end to poverty, a protected environment, and prosperity for all. These are lofty goals but, optimist that I am, even I don’t hold much hope for achieving them in the next fourteen years. Nevertheless, it is worth a try!
As Christians, we have inner peace—the peace of God—the peace that passes understanding. We, however, must be more than possessors of peace; Jesus calls us to be makers of peace. We can start by bringing peace to our little corner of the world, beginning at home and then moving on to work, school, church and community. We can’t stop our peacemaking efforts at the borders of our neighborhoods or even our nation; we must take Christ’s message of peace out into the world. Erecting a peace pole is not enough—we must think, speak and take action in the cause of peace. We each have an obligation to improve those conditions that promote conflict throughout the world. Changing people’s circumstances, however, is just a beginning—for true peace, the peace that is found in a relationship with God, we must also change people’s hearts.