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Persevering for Peace

This year, Liguorian magazine gave me a dream commission — writing four articles on diverse aspects of peace. We began with an exploration of interfaith peace and ways the Bible embraces the whole world, including people of varying faiths. Next, we ventured into the valley of the shadows of death and terrorism, and saw how the light of God shines even there. Thirdly, we considered how theology and practice can empower us to respond peacefully to violence wherever it occurs. In this final article, I use my favourite medium, personal stories, to illustrate how people I know have persevered for peace in difficult circumstances — in the family, in a country recovering from genocide, and in a city after a violent attack.

 

Interfaith peace within families

In my first article, Lighting the Way to Interfaith Peace, we explored Biblical teachings and practical suggestions to live in deeper interfaith peace. My friend Karin demonstrates this deeply within her own family. A devout Christian pastor, Karin dearly wanted a child, so she decided to adopt one. As biological parents can't choose the children they give birth to, Karin told the adoption agents to use their best judgment to match her with a child in need. That child was a teenage Muslim girl, Theodora. Karin welcomed her with open arms, enthusiastically learning more about Islam, supporting Theodora's faith, and unconditionally accepting her religious dietary and dresscode preferences. What deep and authentic acceptance Karin exhibited, especially in an area where it's often most difficult to practice — in the family.

I confess I have not always practiced such unconditional acceptance of others' beliefs in my own family. When I became a Christian, I was so enthusiastic about it that I aggressively pressured my family to believe in God and the Bible. All this did was drive them further away. It was a painful lesson to learn to pray for them silently, love them actively, and focus on enjoying the abundant life Jesus promised, balancing my desire to share my faith with their right not to hear about it, but these changes transformed religious conflict into mutual acceptance. I realised my father was just as concerned about my religious fervor as I was about his atheism, and family life became more peaceful.

 

Sometimes fervour for our own faith can cause friction between loved ones with differing beliefs, but unconditional acceptance, silent prayers, and active love can transform religious conflicts into mutual acceptance.

 


In the face of massive threats

The next story is about persevering in peace building, even in the face of opposition. In my second article, "Our Role in God's Peace Plan," we learned that the Christian call in the war on terror is to "return evil [with] a blessing, because to this [we] were called so that [we] may inherit a blessing" (1Peter 3:9). This is the kind of radical, supernatural but God-enabled love that my friend, Jean Paul Samputu, demonstrated to Vincent, the man who killed his father during the Rwandan genocide. Although Jean Paul has been blessed with opportunities to share his testimony for peace and forgiveness all over the world, it was not easily received in Rwanda. In fact, some people were so angry about his message of forgiveness that they planned to kill him. Although warned about the danger to his life, Jean Paul could not contradict the commandment he feels God gave to him personally, as well as to the world at large: to love and forgive our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). On the contrary, Jean Paul proclaimed it boldly, trusting God with his life. Eventually, opposition led him to move to Europe and finally back to his adopted country, Canada. Following God's will is no guarantee we will not face opposition, have to make sacrifices, or even face death threats in this life. But we know we have believed God, and we're confident that he is able to guard what has been entrusted to us until that day (1Timothy 1:12).

 

Although warned about the danger to his life, Jean Paul could not contradict the commandment he feels God gave to him personally, as well as to the world at large: to love and forgive our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

 

After a senseless act of violence

Just days after I wrote the third article, "Living in God's State of Peace: Active Nonviolence," an act of violence shook Toronto. A man plowed his van into pedestrians on one of our busiest streets, killing ten people and injuring fifteen others. The day after the tragedy, drawn to the epicentre, I witnessed peace in action — strangers were united in grief, lighting candles, writing messages, and Muslims and Christians were holding a joint news conference announcing a new community organization: We Love Willowdale. Its mission is to counter the hate and fear that resulted from (and many believe prompted) the attack with love and kindness. We Love Willowdale hosted numerous events, prayer services, and vigils to honor the victims and restore a sense of community to the neighborhood. Their impact made a strong impression on the city, including a beautiful memorial service attended by politicians, first responders, and hundreds of citizens. We were all united in our determination to overcome hate with love. Peace won, peacefully.

 

The day after an act of violence shook my own city Toronto, Christian and Muslim citizens united to counter the hate and fear that resulted from the attack with love and kindness. Peace won, peacefully.

 

 

Walking the path of peace

Friends, although it's very difficult to walk the path of peace when faced with violence, terror, war, and even our passion for our faith, it is the only path that demonstrates all of the virtues we seek to defend, including our faith, human rights, justice, democracy, and the right to life for others. We cannot violate peace in the pursuit of peace. People like Karin, Jean Paul, and the founders of We Love Willowdale powerfully demonstrate that even in the face of great trials and tribulations, it is possible to persevere in the path of peace. In so doing, we sow and will reap peace in our families, communities, countries, and world. May God bless you as you pursue your personal path to deeper peace.

 

We cannot violate peace in the pursuit of peace. Peace is the only path that demonstrates all of the virtues we seek to defend, including our faith, human rights, justice, democracy, and the right to life for others.

 

Read my full article, reposted below (with thanks to Liguori.org).

Liguorian_Persevering_for_Peace.pdf

Liguorian_Persevering_for_Peace.pdf
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Published in Liguori magazine November 2018. © Liguori Publications, 2018. Please visit Liguorian.org to learn more and subscribe.

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