Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be recognized as children of God. —Matthew 5:9
In Jesus’ teaching and in his life, we see modeled nonviolent, peaceful action. He encourages us to likewise “turn the other cheek” and not return vengeance with vengeance. There is no way to peace other than through peacemaking itself. But many think we can achieve peace through violence. We say, “We will stop killing by killing.” Sadly, that is the way we think, and it is in opposition to all great religious teachers. Our need for immediate control leads us to disconnect the clear unity between means and ends.
American Christians supported the killing of two hundred thousand people in Iraq during the Persian Gulf War and still dare to call themselves pro-life. Many Christians support the violent, unjust Israeli occupation of Palestine. We name a missile that is clearly meant for destruction of human lives a “peacekeeper.” I could list many other examples. The peace we are keeping is a false peace. Jeremiah the prophet would say to our “peacekeeping” wars what he said to the leaders of Israel:
. . . Peace! Peace!
Whereas there is no peace.
They should be ashamed of their loathsome deeds.
Not they! They feel no shame,
They do not even know how to blush. (Jeremiah 8:11-12)
Do we have any idea of all the slavery and oppression, all the killing, the torture, all the millions of people who have existed around the edges of every empire so those at the center of the empire could say they had peace? Every time we build a pyramid, certain people at the top will have their peace. Yet there will be bloody bodies upon which their security is built. Those at the top are usually blind to the price of their false peace.
War is a means of seeking control, not a means of seeking peace. Pax Romana is the world’s way of seeking control and calling it peace. In ancient times, the citizens who lived in the city of Rome thought they had peace. Violence, you see, will always create more violence. It is not real peace. As Pope Paul VI reflected, “If you want peace, work for justice.” [1]
John Dear, an internationally known voice for peace and nonviolence, says that as Christians, “We cannot support war, participate in war, pay for war, promote war, or wage war.” It is our responsibility to work to “end war and create peace . . . to be a peacemaker.” [2]
How can we be peacemakers? It begins by being peace ourselves, by connecting with the source of peace within. It means standing up in nonviolent resistance to systems of injustice. It involves learning the skills of nonviolent communication and conflict resolution.
R. Rohr OFM