The Beatitudes: Blessed Are The Peacemakers
Matthew 5 v 9 : Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
A large part of our growth and renewal as a human community, and as individuals, is the recognition of our errors and failures, and the enacting of change to prevent catastrophe in the future. In our time, we have a prevailing view of the north-western nations as 'leaders' of progress: I think that there are far more exceptions to this 'rule' than we would like to think, and indeed that the assumption of western leadership is itself unhelpful.
It is very easy to forget (and very troubling to remember) that at any moment - waking or sleeping, perhaps during worship or the most important and meaningful life events - we may be moments away from annihilation. There are an estimated 15,000 nuclear weapons worldwide, many of which may be launched with less than two minutes' notice. Only last month, Pope Francis told a conference on nuclear disarmament that 'mere possession' of nuclear weapons was to be condemned - the pontiff clearly believes peacemaking involves leading by example.
The question of nuclear deterrence and non-proliferation reminds me of a passage from Matthew's Gospel:
"Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7.3-4)
The question I think we should ask in our time is this: Can we tell others what makes for peace if we're not willing to pursue it ourselves? Are there exceptions to the anecdote from Matthew's gospel? Perhaps we believe that international politics cannot work on the same moral basis as interpersonal relationships.
Whenever you witness a conflict (between people, or on a larger scale), think about what fears and anxieties the people involved have about one another. When we have disagreements, it is often hard to let our guard down and start a dialogue - but to do so isn't a sign of weakness. Our failure to communicate frankly with people about our differences is perhaps the greatest historical cause of human conflicts.
Next time you talk to someone - perhaps in your family or church setting - about a topic you disagree on, try to not just shut down the discussion. Don't be afraid to assert and justify your views, but practice the art of disagreeing respectfully - often the best way to do this is to be the first to acknowledge the disparity:
"...I know we don't agree fully on this, but..."
God and father, we thank you for making us a wonderfully diverse people. Individuals who, in moving towards cohabitation and mutual respect, might create an echo of your kingdom here and now. Strengthen our arms towards the pursuit, not of violence, but of ever closer embrace: Unstop our ears, so that we can give to our neighbours the priceless gift of listening and understanding.