We want peace in our hearts, homes and communities
The Rev. Alistair Macrae, President of the Uniting Church’s national Assembly, released the following statement to mark International Day of Peace.
Today is the International Day of Peace, a day when people around the world reflect on what peace means.
It should have a special resonance for Christians for whom Jesus is the Prince of Peace. He calls his followers to a ministry of reconciliation and taught, “blessed are the peacemakers”.
Peace is a concept that is everywhere and nowhere in our world. In a single news bulletin pop stars flash the peace sign, warring nations are engaged in peace talks and peaceful protesters gather in places of conflict.
But we look behind the images and notice that the pop star abuses drugs, the peace talks have failed once again and violence is resuming, the “peaceful” protestors are spitting and screaming and the police are responding brutally.
This is not a peaceful world. We are not at peace, with ourselves or with each other. We cry “peace, peace, but there is no peace”.
What would a peaceful society look like? How do we build it? What would happen if we worked to transform our swords into pruning hooks; our instruments of destruction into tools of fruitfulness?
This week in Australia the headlines have been dominated by debate over amendment to the Migration Act. Among other things these changes would allow the Government to put itself above the rule of law with the Minister given powers to make decisions to which the rules of natural justice don’t apply.
The Uniting Church in Australia has been vocal throughout this debate in its concern about asylum seekers and condemnation of rhetoric that characterises people as problems.
We do this because we believe the responsibility of the church is to care for the exiled, the least and the last and to demonstrate compassion and care in an unquiet world.
The church often fails in this because we are human and flawed. But we are constrained to pray and to say out loud what we believe to be true – that we are called to live as peacemakers by Jesus.
In the spirit of the old prophets, Jesus taught that how we treat the outsider and the marginalised is the litmus test for faithful lives; and that following him is the way to true peace.
Christians, through the exercise of prayerful and faithful imagination, need to envision a world formed around peace based on justice and work toward it.
In a society where sadly our leaders so often appeal to peoples’ fear and anxiety the Christian Church should point to “a more excellent way”.
It is only from the basis of experimenting with peaceful living that we can speak with credibility into the public debate.
In this regard the experience of the Uniting Church is wide ranging. We run programs in community services to provide support to those who most need it through the agencies of UnitingCare Australia. UnitingWorld works with partner churches internationally supporting programs in relief and development, placing volunteers, engaging in peace-making and learning from friends in different cultures and contexts.
The church includes congregations of many different cultural backgrounds. We have healthy dialogues with other churches and other faiths in Australia to build understanding, respect and peace.
We provide services to the outback and remote areas, and work in partnership with indigenous Australians through the Congress to make sure their voice is heard in the church and in society.
We represent our views on issues such as human rights to Government through the work of UnitingJustice. We do the hard thinking about working out what the Bible means and how it can help us be channels of peace.
All this gives us a rich history and wide range of experience in living in peace with ourselves and others.
We can do it a lot better. But we can imagine, share and hopefully demonstrate with our community what peace might look like — how people of different cultures and faiths can live together, how we can work with communities overseas who are disadvantaged by poverty to support themselves, how this nation should treat people who apply for asylum and are fleeing from persecution and violence.
We want to stand as people of God who are inclusive, listen to others and are bold and creative enough to live the great experiment of living a good life. We want others to join with us in communities of peace and for Australia to be known as a nation that can show the world what peace might look like.
We want peace in our hearts, peace with God, peace in our homes, peace in our communities and peace in the world. That’s the vision and the challenge on this International Day of Peace.