Today is the second Sunday of Advent and our banner has a dove and the words for PEACE in Hebrew and Arabic. When we made the banners 35 plus years ago, we had a Muslim from Morocco in our Community and it seemed appropriate to include both words on our PEACE banner since there has been so much strife in the Middle East.
The Arabic word salaam is a greeting as is the Hebrew word shalom… “PEACE be with you.” Salaam means PEACE and harmlessness, safety and protection from evil and from faults. As-Salaam is also one of the names of Allah.
Both words mean so much more than the absence of war or just tranquility.
When I learned the meaning of shalom in my seminary days, it was like a light bulb going off in my head. I understood how we as a world could actually obtain PEACE. When we all live in harmony, when we give everyone wholeness and prosperity and wellness, when we make sure that we are all complete then we can truly have PEACE. Otherwise, PEACE is elusive.
There can be no PEACE without justice.
When people march in the streets because of police brutality and racial biases, this is not a law and order issue…this is a justice issue and without justice there will be no PEACE.
Until the U.S. addresses the complaints of the Arabic nations to rule as they choose, we will have terrorism…without justice, we will have no PEACE whether we have good intelligence or not.
Until Israel addresses the issue of the subjugation of the Palestinians, there will be no PEACE in the Middle East.
We tend to put band aids on problems and hope that the bandage will stop the bleeding; we never address the wounds and injustices that so many feel. Giving food and shelter helps but not if, with the other hand, we are giving weapons trying to control the outcome.
Deciding that our best interests mean training people in terrorist tactics and setting up dictatorships around the world; then... what that really means is that those tactics will come back to haunt us. Without justice there can be no PEACE…there will be no PEACE.
We have this irrational notion that “keeping the PEACE” is the same thing as PEACE itself. It is not. PEACE cannot be “kept”, PEACE can only be made through hard, hard work and understanding. Making PEACE starts and ends with justice.
If you are hungry and poor, you have nothing to lose if you blow up a building.
If you feel constrained and oppressed, you have nothing to lose if you grab a gun and start shooting up a street.
If you are nothing but a shell from being trodden on your whole life, you have nothing to lose if you loot and burn a business.
If you have no hope of a future, you have nothing to lose in strapping on a bomb and walking into a crowded mall.
But if all you experience is justice, then you have everything to lose.
When our boys were younger, I would read the books they read so that we could discuss them. One of the series they read was the Pendragon series with a boy, Bobby, who moved through dimensions to points of cruxes in different dimensions’ societies. In the first book, The Merchant of Death, Bobby went to a dimension that had extreme classism. The wealthy had all they needed and wanted, while the poor had little and suffered under the thumbs of oppression from the wealthy. One of the leaders of the people who were so poor, finally broke down and with explosive rocks went to an event held by the wealthy to blow himself and the whole arena up.
I remember reading this and suddenly realizing that the author, D.J. MacHale, was explaining to young people in his book why suicide bombers existed. And MacHale did it so well…because - not once - did I think that the man willing to blow himself up was wrong…I could only see him as desperate.
There was no justice in that society, so there could be no PEACE.
PEACE is an individual action. When our kids were small, we had a cassette tape of PEACE music for children and one song was "I Can Make PEACE with Everyone I Meet”. Creating a world of kindness and respect, treating each other with empathy and understanding, and working daily for justice…this is how we as individuals can make PEACE.
PEACE is a community action. In your neighborhoods, towns, and cities we all need to work for justice for every single person…this is how we make PEACE.
PEACE is a nationwide action. In the world, we all need to work to ensure that everyone has their needs met, treating other nations with respect and kindness, and working to ensure there is a healthy world for today and the future ahead…this is how we make PEACE.
Without justice there can be no PEACE.