By Leela Ramdeen, Consultant, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
Our world is in dire need of peace. Wars, violent armed conflicts, and other social ills stand as obstacles to peace.
On June 28, 2023, we saw the launch of the 17th edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI) from the international think-tank, the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) – covering 163 countries comprising 99.7 per cent of the world’s population.
“Over the last 15 years the world has become less peaceful…Positive Peace describes the attitudes, structures and institutions that underpin and sustain peaceful societies” (IEP).
The GPI presents “the most comprehensive data-driven analysis to-date on trends in peace, its economic value, and how to develop peaceful societies”.
Christians will recall Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount when He taught the Beatitudes – moral and spiritual characteristics to which we should aspire if we say we are followers of Christ (Matt 5:3–12). This is the blueprint for living our lives as God intends.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Beatitudes “are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulation.” The 7th Beatitude is worthy of reflection: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt 5:9). We are called to be advocates of peace.
Each year, gatherings are held worldwide to observe the Ecumenical Week of Prayer for World Peace. This year, it ran from Sunday, October 15 to Sunday 22. Religious communities and interfaith groups also celebrate the week.
St Pope Paul VI, in his encyclical letter Populorum Progressio, On the Development of Peoples (1967), reminded us that “…peace is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power; it is fashioned by efforts directed day after day toward the establishment of the ordered universe willed by God, with a more perfect form of justice among men” (76).
The “ordered universe” which God imprinted in our minds, should lead us to build right relationships and to educate for peace. Peace, says Pope Francis, is a gift as well as a task. It is “a great and precious value, the object of our hope and the aspiration of the entire human family”.
In order to establish peace, nations must learn to resolve conflicts through dialogue, and must undergo an “ecological conversion” to protect the environment and foster recognition of our shared humanity.
World conflicts, he says, are “the consequences of our hostility towards others, our lack of respect for our common home or our abusive exploitation of natural resources—seen only as a source of immediate profit, regardless of local communities, the common good and nature itself.”
Conflict “often begins with the inability to accept the diversity of others, which then fosters attitudes of aggrandizement and domination born of selfishness and pride, hatred and the desire to caricature, exclude and even destroy the other.” He says that recognising each other as neighbours is the path to peace, and that “there can be no true peace unless we show ourselves capable of developing a more just economic system”.
The human community “bears the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts”. He calls on Christians to reject “the false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust. Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace.
“Even nuclear deterrence can only produce the illusion of security… Every war is a form of fratricide that destroys the human family’s innate vocation to brotherhood…The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this.”
The Holy Father is right: “…peace must be built, and like any construction it requires effort, collaboration, patience… Peace germinates from the soil of life, from the seed of our heart; it grows in silence, day after day, through works of justice and mercy… The seed of peace calls for the demilitarization of the field of the heart.” If we are to build peace, we need to be countercultural.
Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon rightly says that building a culture of peace requires conversion of heart and a new way of thinking. On Wednesday, October 18 while in Rome attending the Synod on Synodality, Archbishop Jason posted the following on Facebook:
“I’d like to take some time today to say EVERY loss of life is a moment of reflection and mourning. We all have to mourn when we see the destruction that is happening in the Middle East right now: the attack of Hamas and the loss of life to Israel, the attack of Israel and the loss of life to the Palestinians.
“While the conflict is difficult to understand from where the Caribbean is located, it is an old conflict that goes back to the 1940s with the resettlement of Israel. It is a conflict that has been bubbling over and over and over again. May we all continue to pray for peace in the Middle East because nothing is solved by war or by trying to obliterate a people.
“Let us pray to The Father so that we will find a way to support and that they will find a way to peace. Our Lady of Perpetual Help, intercede for us now and always.”
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Shalom!
The CCSJ asks for your support.
Catholic Commission for Social Justice
Account #: 290 458 025 501
Bank: Republic Bank Ltd.
or you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org