War-talk

Where are the peace-makers?

Wars and threats of war are daily news. Arms sales to dictators are justified as job creation. Agreements to destroy nuclear weapons are torn up and more destructive weapons are added to the stockpile. Opponents are demonized to justify attacking them. Add a Space Force. Humans are slow to learn that war does not solve problems. After Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen it should be clear that modern armed conflicts spawn more conflict than they end. Where are the peace-makers? 

 
   

In a moment of despair, my eyes fell on a new public witness statement by the Canadian Council of Churches titled Principles of Peace (see sidebar). Perhaps God directed my eyes there, on the corner of my messy desk. It offers a clear and strong foundation for Christian witness in our times. Starting with the sovereignty of God, it links inner peace, rooted in our relationship with God, to peace-making between nations. It speaks to the quarrels about personal or public witness in many churches that divert energy from effective witness on all fronts. 

The statement recognizes that both just war thinking and pacifism live in Christian churches; it focuses on peace-making as common ground. Both camps can agree, as the statement says, that “engaging in war constitutes a failure,” not success. It goes on to name many different ways that Christians can contribute to building the conditions for peace or to restoring relationships broken by conflict at all levels of society. It moves beyond the tired old debate between just war and pacifism in Christian circles that mostly prevents doing anything constructive. 

A better witness
It is time to speak up and promote peace-making in the face of sabre-rattling by powerful persons for their own purposes, without regard for the impacts of war on others. The Principles of Peace also clarify how justice and charity fit together to make peace; that speaks to another divide that often prevents Christians from speaking up. Endorsed by a broad spectrum of denominations, the statement is itself peace-building within Christian circles. 

And it is five pages, instead of the 200-page Peace and War report that the Christian Reformed Church shelved in 2006 and mostly ignored ever since. Most importantly, it provides grounding and direction for our troubled times, when it is easy to lose hope that Christianity has anything to offer. It offers rich material for personal reflection, study group discussion and public witness. The question now is whether Christians in churches and churches in Canada will turn principles into action. 

Many people see religion as a cause of war. We can offer a positive witness and restore hope as followers of the Prince of Peace. 

Author

  • Kathy Vandergrift, a public policy analyst, brings experience in government, social justice work and a Master’s Degree in Public Ethics to her reflections.

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