Shalom Salaam Peace
Shalom Salaam Peace, three words which mean "peace" from the three "Abrahamic" religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, provide the foundation for our 2006-2007 spiritual growth study. The author, Alison Stokes, and study guide author, Pat Patterson, accompany us as we think about these three traditions, each of which seeks peace. Each tradition has a history of neighbors living at peace with neighbors and urges its followers to seek inner peace. Each tradition has a history of violence which cries out for explanation. In the name of "Truth" wars have raged.
Questions abound. Why does religion foment such violence? Why is God portrayed as violent in sacred scripture? Do we worship the same God as Abraham? Has God "divided" since then? What is the path to peace? Must we ignore the world and seek inner peace, or does God call us to embody peace on this world? What is the price of peace? Is there peace when there is force?
While Alison Stokes challenges the follower of Christ to raise the questions of peace in our time, Pat Patterson, former missionary and retired staff of the General Board of Global Ministries helps the reader through her study guide. As Christians living elbow-to-elbow with Jews and Muslims in the United States and around the world, we cannot ignore the questions but we can help each other grow in our understanding of who our neighbor is.
Jesus pointed to the Samaritan as the model for neighbor in his day. The Samaritans were a people of Abraham who were condemned as apostates by the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day. They had intermarried with foreigners, they worshipped differently, and they had different beliefs. In short, Jews and Samaritans hated each other. They did not even speak to each other and avoided contact whenever possible.
Jesus is speaking to us today as we delve deeper into the story of the Good Samaritan. Violence and hatred between religions and sects is increasing. Everyone claims the founders--Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, etc.--but everyone accuses the other of not worshipping God correctly. The Samaritans were scorned but Jesus held him up as the model of mercy. Where is mercy today?
Who was the injured stranger? Today would he be a Jew? A Muslim? A Christian? To whom should we show mercy? Who, or which group, is practicing religion correctly?
We ask ourselves, how can we stay faithful to Christ if we embrace Muslims and Jews as full children of God? When Jesus said, "I am the way the truth and the life, no one come to the Father except through me," was he creating an exclusionary clause or was he asking us to act as he acted--open to all people of all walks of life and of various religions? How do we live in peace in such a violent world?
Violence abounds in the Bible. Jesus lived in a territory occupied by the Romans. The Pax Romani--Roman Peace--was the euphemism for the enforced peace where whole towns were wiped out when they resisted Roman armies. Today, American troops occupy Iraq, Israeli troops occupy Palestine, and some Muslims resist with more violence. Where is peace?
When we read Shalom Salaam Peace and its study guide, we discover no simple answers in its text, but it will help us accompany each other through the forest of questions as we seek to embody the Greatest Commandment--to love God with all your heart soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself. It is significant that Jesus placed the Samaritan--a person from a different religion--at the heart of the Greatest Commandment.
Barbara Ross, author of Shalom, Salaam, Peace, 2006-2007 Youth Study Guide, understands that young people are seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find peace in these unstable and frightening times. She guides youth from exploring inner peace, to peace with family and neighbor, and on to the possibility of global peace. The youth guide includes a four day reflection guide for personal use as well as four sessions for youth groups.
When we think about what is going on in the world today--war, terrorism, natural disasters, political unrest--we can see, we need peace. Peace is on the minds of our young people. Hear the voice of young people incorporated in the guide:
Let peace begin with me by: Actually believing there can be world peace, and by working toward goals such as abolishing sweatshops and equal rights for women. With God's Power, all things are possible.
Let peace begin with me by: Being open-minded to all people. I will reinforce to everyone that it is great to be different.
Let peace begin with me by: Bringing attention to the need for people to physically act out what they would do/change in our country/society. For example, there are so many people who don't know the struggles of others in different countries. We have a choice, now we need to use our voice.
Let peace begin with me by: Asking the father to open my eyes and my heart to the problems, not just on the surface, but the root and core. And then may he give me the courage and opportunities to change those problems and better the lives of the human race.