Peace on Earth this Christmas

Dec 23, 2023
Beautiful Christmas background image in green tones. Image:iStock

Peace should be one of our ultimate goals as we seek a better society. Nothing is more important. But what can anyone say about peace that doesn’t sound too preachy or self-righteous? I hesitate to say anything for this reason.

Yet one thing I do know, as a starting point, is that peace is an aspiration that must have deep roots in society to be meaningful. It cannot be detached from the struggles against poverty, racism, and inequality of all types. When it is, it is superficial and likely to be temporary.

“Blessed are the peacemakers”. Peace requires a rare and peace-loving mindset to resist the wholesale pressures against it. The message of peace is so often contradicted by what we see in the world around us that it almost seems contrary to human nature.

Those who call for peace are too often condemned as unrealistic, idealistic, and/or naïve and hypocritical. Even worse are names such as ‘fellow travellers’ or ‘useful idiots’. Recently young Australians have been condemned for so-called virtue signalling for calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. We must always push back against such name-calling.

The relationship between peace and war is central to this goal as war is waged all around us. Peace should mean at least the absence of war and violence, but for some people war is a necessary evil to achieve peace or to preserve it. This can create a dilemma for those advocating peace. But Pope Francis says unequivocally “No to weapons, yes to peace” as he calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

Another dilemma is that the peacemaker must appreciate both sides of any conflict; yet inevitably calling for peace must mean taking sides in some circumstances. Rarely is such taking sides a clear- cut choice, but it must be done when the origins of aggression are clear.

Finally, an appropriate demeanour and tone of voice is important, putting aside any harshness and arrogance in favour of gentleness and understanding. Civility, an increasingly rare virtue, is a key component in building peaceful relationships.

Where to begin? A peacemaker seeks peace at all levels and spheres of society. This means peace between and within nations across the world; peace in our homes and families; and peace in our own hearts and minds. These three levels are linked because lack of peace in different spheres of life emerges from similar origins in human behaviour.

First, world peace must entail bringing peace in specific world hot spots like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Israeli invasion of Gaza in response to the attack by Hamas on Israel. It must also mean resolution of the USA-China freeze and the end to hostilities in parts of Africa and Asia.

Perpetrators and initiators of violence cannot be excused and should always be named; yet ceasefires to protect the lives of civilians must be part of peaceful solutions everywhere. United Nations peace-keeping forces should be praised for the dangerous work that they do. Often peacekeepers are treated as less significant figures than fighting forces.

Secondly, we must call for peace in our families and homes. We know that many homes and families are dangerous places to live. Eradication of endemic violence against women and children by those, most often men, who should care for them must be our highest priority in 2024. As Christmas approaches the South Australian government has just recognized this necessity by calling a Royal Commission into Family and Domestic Violence in direct response to the violent deaths of too many women in that state. This step should be praised and supported.

Thirdly, goodwill to all must mean personal conversion of spirit and consciousness raising. Peace must start with each of us, meaning that we cannot escape personal responsibility. Peace education in schools also should be advocated as a way of inculcating a peaceful mindset in the young.

We must hear the ancient Christian call to love one another. Christmas is an ideal time, but also testing time because it sometimes forces people into uncomfortable familial relations, to invite others to come in peace into our homes and families and also to reach out to others to ask them “R U OK”.

Yet none of these thoughts seem like even close to enough given the urgency of the situation. Trying to be a peace maker at any level is a humbling experience. We all need to speak up in what seems like a wilderness of violence and war.

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