Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
The posture we take as peacemakers must be grounded in humility if we are, in fact, to be peacemakers. It
is not our peace—or what we believe to be peace—that we are called to proclaim, but rather God’s peace.
This does not mean that we hold exclusive knowledge of what God wants. Quite the contrary. It means, rather, that through
prayer we humble ourselves—our wants, needs, conclusions and plans—seeking to place ourselves in service to God’s
unfolding plan. God’s peace is a peace gained, not imposed. It is a peace that is the fruit of justice. It is a peace
that holds no place for arrogance and swagger. It is the peace that comes not from military victory nor just "bringing the
troops home," but from a tireless commitment to building and nurturing right relationships. Justice, after all, is not something
that can be defined for another. It must be experienced first-hand and revealed by the other.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
As peacemakers, we are called to be the peace we seek. We are called to enter into the ugliness of hatred—be
it racial, ethnic or national—and overcome that hatred, not with violence, arrogance, or military engagement, but with
love. Have you ever experienced an argument where one person’s vitriolic attacks are met by an even louder, harsher
counter-argument? Have you ever seen anyone change their mind in such an exchange? Imagine how you would feel if your house
were on fire and the fire department arrived and began shooting flamethrowers at it? Hatred is rooted in pain and brokenness.
It is unnatural. It is like a seed planted in a person and allowed to grow unchecked. The more hatred one is exposed to, the
more the hatred grows inside. It is senseless to think that such hatred can be overcome by force. It must be transformed through
the gentle and persistent application of an antidote, something that challenges the lived experiences of that person with
a very different and often entirely new experience—one of being valued, being accepted, being loved, having a life of
dignity. As the U.S. was preparing to invade Iraq, soldiers were told that the Iraqis were responsible for September 11th
and were preparing to use weapons of mass destruction against their loved ones. Countless bombs were dropped on Iraq with
the scribbled names of 9-11 victims scrawled on their cold metallic cases.
Where there is injury, pardon.
As peacemakers, we are called to seek justice, not vengeance. We must acknowledge injury and reject the motivations
and results of such injury. We must embrace the injured and offer consolation. As peacemakers, we are called to forgiveness
and reconciliation, not condemnation and retaliation. The dictionary defines "pardon" as a "kind indulgence, as in forgiveness
of an offense or discourtesy, or in tolerance of a distraction or inconvenience; a release from the penalty of an offense."
We do not ignore an injury. To do so devalues the injured. Injury is an affront to justice and undermines right relationship.
We must hold in our hearts a yearning for peace that is challenged by injury. However, the measure of our faithfulness is
in our reaction to the injury. We pray with St. Francis to have the wisdom and strength to respond with "kind indulgence."
Where there is doubt, faith.
To be a Christian peacemaker, a follower of the nonviolent Jesus, is an awesome task. Laying claim to this
identity in a polarized, secularized, militarized consumer culture, we expose ourselves daily to the onslaught of doubt. It
is ironic that in the U.S., a nation that is regularly heralded as one of the most "faithful" peoples on earth, too many "faith"
leaders regularly reinforce polarization, embrace militarism, and rely on consumeristic values to further their mission. It
is no wonder that so many struggle with doubt. We counter this doubt with faith. Faith is not an assurance that our way is
the right way. True faith lays no such claim. Rather, faith is a posture for living that lays us open to the work that God
does within us. It is an emptying so that we might be filled. Our faith then is not a set of handy, immutable conclusions
but a genuine openness to the changes that God seeks to work in us that may challenge our most deeply-held conclusions.
Where there is despair, hope.
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of peacemaking is the necessary entry into the pain, suffering, injustice
and violence that surround us. There is truth in the old saying that it is easy to be a holy person on top of a mountain.
It is when we descend the mountain and enter the village and take up our work among others that our holiness is challenged.
When we stand face to face with legless Afghan children whose lives have been determined in an instant through an encounter
with a Motorola-made cluster bomb; when we acknowledge that over the past 15 years the U.S. has killed well over a million
Iraqi civilians; when we recognize that we are sending our own young men and women into a war where we know, absolutely, that
they will themselves be turned into killers whose victims 9 times out of 10 will be civilians and that they will bear that
burden forever; when we watch—as in a slow motion train wreck—our nation consciously choose to escalate a war
of choice that has no possible outcome but more suffering, we expose ourselves to the despair that grips our world. Here we
pray fervently that we be the bringers of hope. Hope does not deny the real ugliness and violence of our world and of our
making. Rather, hope confirms that we can overcome. Hope is the tool God provides that allows us to continue to engage this
Where there is darkness, light.
Darkness is another word for deception. As peacemakers, we are wedded to the truth as the foundation of justice.
Wherever we encounter lies and deception we are called to seek the truth. The truth is the light. Just as violence cannot
be overcome by violence, falsehoods cannot be overcome by propaganda. We cannot save the village by destroying it. We cannot
stand by while the media, our neighbors and family claim a false superiority and moral purity in our relations with others
around the world and in this nation. The darkness fell across the Gulf states not because a hurricane came. It descended into
darkness, and remains there, because of the shameful response to that devastation. The darkness descended not because a desperate
and violent group attacked the U.S. on September 11th. The darkness descended when that tragedy was used, through lies and
emotional manipulation, to justify unleashing even greater violence across the Middle East. As peacemakers, we are challenged
to seek the light, to seek the truth and live in that truth, especially when that truth exposes our own sinfulness.
Where there is sadness, joy.
To be a peacemaker must mean that we bring something different to our world. Our world is awash in sadness.
Pain and brokenness abound. If we remove the filters that allow us to make it through each day, the pain and sadness we see
is overwhelming. It can immobilize us. It can crush us under its sheer weight. As we seek to be peacemakers in our daily lives,
as we seek to build right relationships, overcome deception, and point to another Way, we must do so with joy. Emma Goldman
famously said, "I don’t want to be a part of any revolution that won’t allow me to dance." Indeed, we must be
in love with life in order to overcome the culture of death. We must dance, rejoice and reinforce the elements of beauty and
joy that God intends for all. Otherwise we risk becoming the very sadness that we seek to banish.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood,
as to understand; to be loved, as to love.
Peacemaking is about building right relationships. Are we to define "right relationship" in terms of what’s
"right" for ourselves? Certainly not. Since we already know what we would define as "right," our challenge, if we are to lay
claim to the identity of peacemaker, is to place our focus and our efforts on the other. We seek to understand, in a deep
way, the hopes, dreams, aspirations and perspectives of the other in order to know how best we can build right relationship
with them. Do we, as a nation, have the faintest idea what it is like to be 20 years-old and living in a refugee camp in a
desert? Do we, as individuals, have any clue what it is like to look into the eyes of our children and see the signs of malnutrition,
or watch helplessly as they slowly succumb to an easily preventable disease? For those of us who are white peacemakers, do
we really know the pernicious power of exclusion and devaluation that people of color carry deep within their experience?
For those of us who are wealthy peacemakers, can we ever know the pain of hunger or the numbing effects and ever-present violence
of poverty? If we are to be peacemakers, we need to allow others’ stories to break into our comfortable existence and
break our hearts. And, once broken, our hearts must reach out in consolation—must reach out with love for our sister,
St. Francis authored this prayer for all who would seek to be the Peace of Christ. In this time of
escalating war and multiplying sadness, of insecurity and manipulation, of self-righteousness and hard heartedness, we pray
this prayer with confidence:
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we
are born to eternal life.
Dave Robinson is the Editor of The Catholic Peace Voice and Executive Director of Pax Christi USA.