Responsively Yours: Children of God Wage Peace
If we as women of the church are to find ways to “wage peace,” we will need to change our ways of thinking and seeing. For instance, do we think about peace as interludes between wars? It is interesting to note that we name wars, and that agreements of surrender or conditions of détente shape our futures (often, of course, setting up the conflicts for the next war).
What would it be like if our history were shaped by the times of peace, and the wars were viewed as the interruptions? What if we trained some of our best and brightest strategists to create the conditions for peace, for dispute resolution and for investment in all of the things that help humans thrive? These questions were raised for me during conversations at a recent World Council of Churches Peace Convocation in Jamaica.
Countries of the world, including our own, invest tremendous resources and personnel in making war and in the conflicts that lead to war — making and enforcing claims over territory and rights. Conditions that make for peace are also things that need investment. As developed nations around the world look at their budgets in the light of the recent financial upheavals and the costs of climate change and natural disasters, it seems particularly pressing to choose where we invest.
The annual Global Peace Index is an economists’ attempt to measure just how much we invest in war and violence annually. The conclusion? “Reducing prison populations, improving relations with neighboring countries and enhancing the rule of law for local businesses could save countries around the world as much as $8 trillion a year, according to an annual survey of the economics of peace,” Peter Green reported on Bloomberg News, May 25.
Mr. Green went on to report, “The most important factor for increasing peacefulness and reaping a peace dividend is a well-functioning government.
“The other key indicators are a sound business environment with reasonable regulation and judicial control; low levels of corruption; high levels of education, especially a well-functioning high-school system; good relationships with neighboring countries; an equitable distribution of resources; an acceptance of the rights of others; and a respect for private property.”
We are at a critical time for learning to live so that the end of hostilities and the agreements drawn up by the “winners” and imposed on the “losers” do not merely set the table for the next outbreak of violent conflict.
Churchwomen have always been alert to the opportunities at the beginning and the ending of hostilities to work and pray for peace. From Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day proclamation of 1870 to the post-World War I focus of the World Day of Prayer, to the women of Japan asking for the prayers of their sisters as they listened to the drumbeat of war before Pearl Harbor, to our own work in developing the Church Center for the United Nations after World War II. As one of the speakers at the conference noted about monitoring conflicts for violence: “If you want to know what’s happening, ask the women. If you don’t ask the women of the community, you won’t know.”
Perhaps our current spiritual growth study on forgiveness and reconciliation will provide us with some clues about how we might respond to what we know. Perhaps the experience of National Seminar, United Methodist Women’s quadrennial Christian social action training event, will result in plans to invest in peace. Perhaps Methodist and Uniting Church Women meeting in South Africa this summer will share ways that help us live as children of God who invest in making peace.
May it be so.
Harriett Jane Olson
Women’s Division, Deputy General Secretary