Given the preponderance of violence in global current events, an onlooker might conclude with seeming certainty that humans are not particularly interested in peace. Although information available to the observer might serve to support his conclusion, he would be mistaken. It is my observation that many of us are interested in peace, but that most of us do not make the news.
Here are a few of the existing groups, movements or events that are promoting peace. WDP, a group composed mainly of Christian women, has a day of peace on the first Friday in March, with international observations. The Unity movement sponsors an International Day of Prayer for peace each second Thursday in September, which garners the support of people worldwide. September 21 is the United Nations International Day of Peace. Pope Francis called for a World Day of Prayer for the care of creation (needing peace to accomplish) on September 1. There are more; I am not aware of what each of them is, but I know there are more. I am guessing that refugees worldwide want peace, and that some of them are praying for it. I am guessing that the disenfranchised worldwide want a just peace, and that some of them are praying for it. I am guessing that simple people, wearied of horrors and conflict, pray for peace. I know that activist groups, such as World Beyond War and Win Without War, actively promote peace. Worldwide, a cry for peace goes up from amidst the violence.
With all this prayer, why is there not more peace? There are some who say that violence is our shadow part, coming out in destructive ways because we have not recognized it within ourselves and figured out a non-destructive way to handle it. There is merit in this position. Our shadow selves are not examined often enough, neither admitted within our consciousness nor given permission to exist openly. It is a psychological truth that they can consequently erupt destructively. I do think that this is a contributor. However, perhaps we are also seeking peace too broadly, looking at too grand a picture. Admittedly, if we are focused on world peace, there does not seem to be a lot of it. Nevertheless, the world is not devoid of peace. It is more visible in smaller manifestations.
There is a fairly well-known song, Let There Be Peace on Earth, by Jill and Sy Miller, published in 2009, the second verse of which is “and let it begin with me.” At this personal level, the progress of peace is more visible. Those who continually pray for peace, affirm peace, sit and meditate on peace, begin to grow into people in whom peace is deeply rooted. They judge less, are agitated less often, experience more centeredness and more peace in their lives than those who are less connected. They do not respond with confrontation to an offense from another. They are able to let slights pass through them harmlessly. They wish themselves and others well. People are unconsciously attracted to them, enjoy being in their presence. The effects of their prayer not only transform them, but begin the process of transformation in others in proximity.
When enough of these peaceful catalysts exist within a group – family, circle of friends, congregation. for example – the focus on peace begins to transform the group itself; the group becomes as another entity seeking peace. All this is not done on purpose, as in taking action on a goal. It is a process of growth begun in the heart of an individual or individuals, extending outwards. Peace does not begin at the top as a worldwide condition. It is a grassroots happening.
Imagine if enough of us embraced a peaceful approach to life, engaging by ourselves and with others in prayer/meditation and daily practice of peaceful ways. Imagine not fighting with our friends or enemies, of abandoning the default position of aggressive confrontation. Imagine the spread from individuals to small groups to larger groups to nations – in this way peace seems possible.
Although the result of extended war and violence vectors towards mutual extinction, I don’t think those so engaged actively wish for their demise. If so, it would be more reasonable to commit mass suicide. I think that another path does not seem visible to those entrapped in the circle of violence.
Let us continue to pray for peace. However, instead of praying for others to become peaceful, let us pray instead for ourselves to become peaceful, knowing that the process is contagious. At best, humanity can ultimately become more peaceful; at least, we ourselves can know a greater measure of peace.