Responsively Yours: Peace
- Peace: Audio version (MP3, 4.6MB)
- Cover of Response, May 2008 (PDF, 82k)
- Content of Response, May 2008 (PDF, 255K)
- Harriett Jane Olson is deputy general secretary for the Women's Division.
I cannot think of any age when the world’s people have been at peace. Reading today’s newspaper or looking at Internet news features might help us identify with the prophet Jeremiah, who charges prophets and priests with “saying ‘Peace, peace,’” when there is no peace, in Jeremiah 6:14.
In the biblical text, peace and life go together. Both the Hebrew and Greek meanings imply a broad sense of well-being, welfare and prosperity in the word peace. But even in the more limited sense of peace that is calm and quiet, there has been precious little of it in the history of the world.
In the comparatively brief history of the United States we have had armed combat in each generation from the American Revolution onward. Even though centuries of armed conflict have shown again and again that strength of arms does not produce security, and that war does not produce prosperity, we seem incapable of finding other ways to settle disputes and work for international justice.
Or do we? In 1943 the Methodist Council of Bishops formed a Crusade for a New World Order designed to ensure the United States was active in the creation of what became the United Nations. The Woman’s Division and the Board of Lay Activities jointly organized a houseto- house visitation program in which two-person teams of laity visited homes, and provided information and training supporting international cooperation, with some 2 million copies of a leaflet called Your Part being distributed in the process. The division produced a study pamphlet on the Dunmbarton Oaks proposals that formed the basis for the U.N. Charter. More than a million copies were distributed and millions of letters were sent to senators, the president and the secretary of state supporting this effort.
Call for PeaceContact your representatives via
phone, letter or e-mail and ask
them to pay the U.S. contribution
to the United Nations, supporting
peacemaking, peace-keeping and
development in our world today.
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to contact Congress.
Again in the early 1960s Methodist women spoke out for the United Nations, this time against a storm of criticism that followed admission of African nations to the General Assembly. The outpouring of letters was so great that Adlai Stevenson, U.S. Representative to the United Nations, was unable to reply to each writer and he used a letter printed in June 1963 issue of The Methodist Woman to express his thanks to “the hundreds of Methodist women who have written to me during the months past to express their support of the United Nations as a force for peace and human development.”
An example of this sort of boundary- breaking work for peace and reconciliation today can be seen in efforts like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has been such a powerful influence in South Africa — giving voice to many whose humanity was violated during apartheid. Another example is the work of the women’s groups (Christian and Muslim together) in Liberia who insisted on the end of Civil War, who sat on the field of battle between warring factions and who forced leaders to stay with the stalled negotiation process in the Accra Peace Talks in 2003.
What could United Methodist Women do today that would be significant in the cause of peace? As of February 2008, the United States owes the United Nations $2.77 billion in assessed contributions, including dues, peacekeeping costs and other U.N. development initiatives. The United States is the only country that has withdrawn funding from the UNFPA, the United Nation’s Population Foundation. In 2002, although $34 million was budgeted for this work in maternal health and AIDS prevention, the U.S. administration began withholding funding. And, although the U.S. State Department investigated charges that UNFPA had funded abortions and concluded these charges were false, the United States still has not released funding to provide this basic support for women in developing countries.
Why do nations and factions within nations persist in using armed combat when they seek security and prosperity? Why do we say “peace, peace” if we are not willing to fund the work? The work of the United Nations in peacemaking, peace-keeping and development honors God by caring for all of creation, and right now, it’s work is as creative and as boundary-breaking as it gets.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Date posted : Jun. 17, 2008