International Prayer for Peace:
Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.
Druid Prayer for Peace:
Deep within the still centre of my being, may I find peace.
Silently, within the quiet of this circle, may I share peace.
Gently, within the greater circle of humanity, may I radiate peace.
“If ever there were a time for a candle in the darkness, this would be it.
Using a spark of hope, kindle the flame of love, ignite the light of peace,
and feed the flame of justice.” Melanie Davies
Peace and justice are intertwined. Most conflict in the world is about control and possession of resources – land, water, fossil fuels. The Gulf Wars were fought to secure the oil supply of the West. The involvement of Saudi Arabia in the war in Yemen is being fuelled by UK arms deals with Saudi Arabia, who provide us with oil. Meanwhile, China, being a major economic partner of the West, is unopposed in its occupation of Tibet.
Competition for resources is likely to become more intense as climate change progresses. Recently we have seen Extinction Rebellion blossom into a world-wide movement demanding justice for our planet. The movement challenges our global economy that prioritises money over the welfare of future generations. It draws attention to the injustice of a situation which sees the worst effects of climate change experienced by the poorest peoples in the world, with the smallest carbon footprints, while in rich countries with the largest carbon emissions, we remain relatively unscathed so far.
Peaceful protest, non-violent civil disobedience, has been key to achieving justice in the recent past – from Gandhi's campaign for Indian independence from Britain, through the civil rights movement in America to the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.
I wasn't able to attend the Extinction Rebellion action in London, but I was pleased to note the involvement of several Unitarians. As I understand it, the core of my Unitarian faith is peace – peace with ourselves, peace with God, peace with each other. It is not just a journey towards peace, but the road we travel. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.”
This is exemplified by the Women Wage Peace movement, established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014, which resulted in the deaths of more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, 67 Israeli soldiers and 6 Israeli civilians. During the conflict, worried mothers of soldiers began connecting on Facebook, to give each other support and comfort. As the dialogue developed, the feeling grew that must try to stop the cycle of violence. Women of all backgrounds in Israel and Palestine reached out to each other and the movement was born.
In 2015, on the anniversary of the conflict, a tent was raised outside the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem. For 50 days people came and went and joined in a peaceful demonstration by fasting, as a way of commemorating and mourning the loss of life on both sides.
The fasting women agreed several principles:
To pressure governments to work consistently and insistently until they find a mutually acceptable and honorable peace agreement, acceptable to both sides; To pressure governments to put into practice the United Nations resolution which states that women must be part of security and peace making committees; To commit to non-violence; To commit to democracy and equality, the movement has no specific leaders and is non-hierarchical.
Since its inception, Women Wage Peace has held several more events. In September 2016, Israeli and Palestinian women walked a March of Hope through Israel and the West Bank, culminating in an Assembly in Jerusalem.
In September 2017, the Peace Journey was repeated, and included bus tours from all around Israel to a series of events at the Dead Sea and Jerusalem; 30,000 people attended the final assembly. In the summer of 2018, a Mother's Tent was erected in the Rose Garden in front of the Israeli parliament. Politicians, opinion leaders, and artists, spoke, reminding their leaders that a political agreement is possible to attain. In November 2018, they held a Young People's Congress in Tel Aviv, entitled of “Removing Barriers to Peace.”
In 2019 the Mothers’ Tent was again erected, this time in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, where it stood for a month until the last days before the election.
Bernice Lewak Zohn describes her involvement in this year's action, “I am a Jewish, Anglo woman, born and grew up in South Africa. I stand shoulder to shoulder with Israeli women and Israeli Palestinian women. We have brought a loudspeaker and recorder with us so that all passers-by will hear songs of peace, sung in Hebrew, Arabic and English. We hand out sweets to passers-by and postcards which bear the name of our movement: Women Wage Peace - in English, Arabic & Hebrew. We talk to whosoever stops to question us about our movement. Our presence draws a variety of responses from the stream of passers-by.. My heart is warmed by a feeling of kinship with my fellow women, and by a sense of hope; and I feel a need to tell about this lovely organization to all English speakers and especially to my fellow South Africans - those of us who watched apartheid destroy the moral fiber of generations. Those of us who felt that our easy South African life style was built on the backs of others. Those of us who feel that it is imperative that there has to be an ongoing search for understanding and peace - no matter how long it takes and no matter whether we think that the other side is available or not. To quote John Kennedy, “Those who make peaceful revolutions impossible, will make violent revolutions inevitable”."
Among the speakers at the 2017 rally was Shakib Shanan, whose son Kamil was killed in a terror attack at the Temple Mount. She said, “Although my heart is bleeding I stand here tonight with you. In pride and faith that only peace and love must connect us. We have suffered so much, Palestinian families and Israeli families have lost their loved ones and been left with a wound that does not heal. I came here to say, we want to live! We are allowed to say this out loud – we are peace-loving... I call on [our leaders] – enough! Sit already. Sit already! We want peace. Listen to our cry, it comes from our hearts. Listen to the cries of truth and justice, we want peace, from this place hope emerges.”
I found this profoundly moving, that women brought up on either side of such a long-lasting and deep-rooted conflict, are coming together in the name of peace and seeing beyond imposed divisions to our common humanity. Just as hatred is born of fear, peace becomes possible when we move beyond fear of the other and recognise that the other is, deep down, just like us.
Exemplified by the work of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu in South Africa, it is clear that peace also requires us to practice forgiveness, of ourselves and others. Forgiveness is not easy, but only when we stop holding grudges, between nations and individuals, when we stop seeing others as enemies and enemies as other, when we are able to accept one another and ourselves without judgement and condemnation, will we find reconciliation and peace. Perhaps the Women who Wage Peace will succeed in their aim for a Middle East peace settlement, perhaps they won’t. Time will tell. But whatever happens, they have acted and made their voices heard.
Rabbi Johan Rayner says, “It is not enough to pray for peace. We have to work for it – to denounce injustice, not just when it is committed against us, but also when it is committed against others; to defend human rights, not only ours but also theirs.”
So if we too wish to reject war and embrace peace, let us act and make our voices heard. Non-violent civil disobedience isn't for everyone. We don’t have to join a march or a vigil to promote understanding of other people and cultures, and contribute towards the creation of a just and compassionate world. We can sign petitions against environmental destruction. We can write to our MPs to express our concerns about arms deals and spending on the ‘defence‘ budget, when schools and hospitals face cuts. We can volunteer our time or resources to charities working towards peace and social justice. We can choose to invest our money in ethical financial institutions. We can participate in interfaith dialogue, visit mosques, synagogues and temples, get to know our neighbours. We can pray and meditate, sending our peaceful energy out to heal the world.
Most importantly, we can practice peaceful communication in our personal relationships – because every time we see something from another’s point of view, we cultivate empathy, every time we treat someone else with respect, kindness and compassion, we contribute to building a peaceful world. The smallest actions make a difference. All of these things matter. All of these things mean we are radiating peace. Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.
Prayer for World Peace by Sister Joan Chittister
Great God, who has told us “Vengeance is mine,” save us from ourselves, save us from the vengeance in our hearts and the acid in our souls.
Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt, to punish as we have been punished, to terrorize as we have been terrorized.
Give us the strength it takes to listen rather than to judge, to trust rather than to fear, to try again and again to make peace even when peace eludes us.
We ask, O God, for the grace to be our best selves.
We ask for the vision to be builders of the human community rather than its destroyers.
We ask for the humility as a people to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples.
We ask for the love it takes to bequeath to the children of the world to come
more than the failures of our own making.
We ask for the heart it takes to care for all, as well as for ourselves.
Give us the depth of soul, O God, to constrain our might, to resist the temptations of power to refuse to attack the attackable, to understand that vengeance begets violence, and to bring peace--not war--wherever we go…
And so may we be merciful and patient and gracious and trusting with these others whom you also love.
This we ask through Jesus, the one without vengeance in his heart.
This we ask forever and ever.