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When ‘reality’ is defined by a violent, oppressive market, is peace naive?


News last month has been filled with devastation from tornados and floods, violent and nonviolent Arab protests, end-of-the-world predictions, ongoing war in Afghanistan and, yes, Iraq, and the usual fare of sex scandals and crimes. 

There was little or no mention that 1,000 people of faith, including 95 youth, met in May at Kingston, Jamaica, for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation of the World Council of Churches and recognized that “peace is a core value of all religions” and that the “promise of peace extends to all people regardless of their traditions and commitments.”  They called for intensified interreligious dialogue to seek common ground.

They recognized that each church and religion comes toward the call for a just peace from different bases—personal conversion and morality, mutual support and correction, or commitment to social movements and public witness.

“Each approach has merit,” said the message of the convocation, and is inseparable, so “even in our diversity we can speak with one voice.”  The message is to the churches and to the “bruised and broken” world that God loves.

Participants realize that churches have often blocked the path to peace by being “complicit in systems of violence, injustice, militarism, racism, casteism, intolerance and discrimination.”  Asking for forgiveness they asked God to “transform us as agents of righteousness and advocates of just peace”—in communities, with earth, in the marketplace and among peoples.

The convocation marked the end of the World Council of Churches’ Decade to Overcome Violence, which followed the Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women.

Mennonite theology professor Fernando Enns of the University of Amsterdam said:  “Our journey must continue.  We shall hold each other accountable.  The church is either accepting the call to just peace or it is not the church at all.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said that most peacemaking efforts fail because “we are unwilling to forgo established ways of wasting and wanting.  In peacemaking, then, it is critical that we perceive the impact of our practices on other people, especially the poor, as well as on the environment,” he said. “This is precisely why there cannot be peace without justice.”

Martin Luther King III told participants that after losing his father, uncle and grandmother to violent and, in some cases, suspicious causes of death, he still believes there is a more noble way: to “dislike the evil act” but “still love the individual.”  He said killing of Osama Bin Laden was “not necessarily the best course of action.”  King said that an eye-for-an-eye would leave everyone without eyes.  He urged churches, political leaders and citizens to reach for the noble, higher ground of nonviolence.

These calls and reflections were lost in the muddle of conflict-, celebrity-, sensation-, crime-, divisive-, sex- and commercial-driven media, that assures us they know what readers, viewers and listeners want, and that they know what sells.  So we continue to be fed divisive messages that leave us feeling hopeless and helpless, particularly when our faith communities call us to follow the way of love, peace, justice and sustainability.

Those values become lost and seem irrelevant in the onslaught of other “realities”   presented.

What difference will it make in our lives if we begin to question the empire market economy based on domination, exploitation and speculation, not supply and demand?  Can people of faith opt out of the marketplace in which structural violence is embedded?

Mary Stamp - Editor