Then God will judge between the nations and arbitrate between many peoples. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation; no longer will they learn how to make war. Isaiah 2:4 and 5
These are remarkable words that come from the prophet Isaiah, recorded over 2,000 years ago and spoken in the 8th Century bce. “In ancient Israel, war was a nearly daily part of life, primarily because of the nation’s small size and valuable location. A parcel of land smaller than Nova Scotia, ancient Israel was surrounded on all sides by nations who wanted to own it and subjucate it. Biblical scholars remind us that in the lives of ancient Israelites, there was only “war time” and “preparing-for-war time.” In this context, to speak of peace and pacifism showed an incredibly audacious faith.” (Seasons of the Spirit, p 32).
This sounds all so familiar, doesn’t it? We could be speaking about the Middle East in 2013. Human beings, it seems, have always engaged in endless cycles of war. The most recent appalling example is the civil war that is raging in Syria where thousands have been killed and many more thousands traumatized by the ravages of the sectarian violence racking the region.
So on this Second Sunday in Advent, it seems almost ludicrous to focus on peace.
Is anyone anywhere even listening? But when I read the inspiring words of Isaiah, words of “audacious faith”, I am reminded that to give up on the pursuit of peace is to give up on humanity and to abandon us to those endless cycles of war I mentioned earlier. I cling to the words of Martin Luther King Jr’s who said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the presence of justice.”
King is saying that in order for peace to prevail, justice must prevail. And justice can never be achieved when millions of our world citizens live on the margins of grinding poverty; when the well being of many is sacrificed for the opulent extravagance of a few; when greed rules the marketplace; when commodities are more valued than human life.
How do we begin to forge a vision of peace and justice for the world community?
Here are some suggestions, small and doable, in the moment, that reflect a commitment to the long term well being of our human family.
- Never give up on dialogue or the political process. If we disengage from the political process, we are abandoning the world to powerful cliques of people. The common good of all is not well served if you never vote in an election because you are so disgusted with what goes on in the political arena. Roll up your sleeves and attend policy conventions so that you might have a say in what matters and how justice can be achieved.
- Seek to purchase products from companies that adhere to an international code of fair trade practices. What are fair trade practices? Practices that embrace the belief that the producer of a commodity has a right to fair prices so that his/her family can live as comfortably as the person who consumes the commodity (ie: coffee).
- Join an organization that promotes world peace. A fine example of that is Project Ploughshares. Thanks to the tireless work of this organization, the matter of nuclear proliferation is kept in the spotlight, with unceasing demands that nations that own nuclear weapons disarm themselves. The nuclear arsenals of Russia and the United States have been reduced thanks to organizations such as this.
- Education! Education! Education! There is a bumper sticker I saw a few years ago that said, If you think that education is expensive, try ignorance!” A 16 year old Pakistani child named Malala almost lost her life, insisting on her right to attend school. Surely we, through our taxes, can support and generously fund education at home and abroad, so that we create a world of thoughtful and caring people.
On this second Sunday of Advent, as we light the Candle of Peace, may the words of Isaiah be planted like seeds and may they flourish and grow to fullest flower.
p.s. Read all the other Advent blog posts: