Fighting for Peace

This Remembrance Sunday, as we remember and reflect on the conflicts and sacrifices of the past and present, I’d like to pose a question.

Are you a pacifist ?

There surely aren’t many people who love war, who see conflict as a desirable way to settle differences, a fantastic accomplishment of the human race !

But many would no doubt agree that unfortunately, in some circumstances, when faced with violence and aggression, and where no other reasonable option exists for peaceful resolution, then conflict and war are sometimes necessary in the real world. After all, if someone broke into your house, intent on harming those you love, who wouldn’t resort to force to protect them ?

These arguments are of course very reasonable, and used by many to explain why they’re not absolute pacifists – myself included.

But there’s something these arguments miss.

Pacifism isn’t just about when we choose to go to war or not – it’s also about how we go about building lasting peace with others.

Peace isn’t simply the absence of war.

Real lasting peace comes from respect, tolerance, trust and fairness, without fear, envy or resentment. If we treat others, whether in the world or in our street, with contempt, scorn or a lack of respect, or if we act unfairly, unjustly or dishonestly with them, then we can scarcely be said to be ‘making peace’.

Real peace making is surely about more than simply the ending of physical violence – it’s about building fair and respectful relationships with others – between nations, tribes, religions, social classes or individuals.

If we want our future to have less conflict, we need to make sure our present has more love.

“The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war”

- Vijaya Lakshimi Pandit

“If they want peace, nations should avoid the pin-pricks that proceed the cannon shots !”

- Napoleon Bonaparte

   

Photo by HuwowenThomas, via Flickr

The World’s Refugees

There are 15.6 million refugees in the world – people living insecurely in another country, having been forced to flee their own. There are another 27.5 million internally displaced people.

Refugees have no option but to live in temporary shelter, often in tents or makeshift accommodation, with few educational or employment opportunities, limited hygiene and health care, susceptibility to crime and exploitation and often with threat of water or food scarcity. The UNHCR works on the ground and with national governments on behalf of displaced people and communities.

The majority of the world’s refugees are in Pakistan, Iran and Syria, but with increasing numbers in Kenya and Sudan, as a result of the famine affecting the Horn of Africa.

The photo above shows a makeshift shelter at Dolo Ado refugee camp on the Ethiopia-Somalia border.

 

Similar articles – The Largest Refugee Camp in the World

Photo by Cate Turton / Department for International Development, via Flickr

Meet Shane Claiborne

The next few ‘Foto Friday’ posts will focus on individuals who are currently working in their own way to try and make a positive difference in the world.

Shane Claiborne is a Christian activist and author, who champions the poor and marginalised in society.

He is also an outspoken critic of the arms trade and militarism. During the second Gulf War he travelled around Iraq for three weeks apologising to the Iraqi people about the Coalition bombing, worked with Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream on his Bombs and Ice Cream project, and in his 2010 tax return he witheld the 30% of his tax that he argues would go towards military spending.

He recently wrote an open letter to non-Christians for Esquire Magazine.

“I am going to Iraq to stop terrorism. There are Muslim extremists and Christian extremists who kill in the name of their gods. Their leaders are millionaires who live in comfort while their citizens die neglected in the streets. I believe in another Kingdom that belongs to the poor and to the peacemakers. I believe in a safe world, and I know this world will never be safe as long as the masses live in poverty so that handful of people can live as they wish. Nor will the world be safe as long as we try to use violence to drive out violence.” - SHANE CLAIBORNE

[More Ideas for ‘making a difference’ in The Year I Saved the World]

Gas Flares in the Niger Delta

The image shows north Africa at night from space. Most of Africa is dark, compared to lights of southern Europe. Below the Sahara only the Niger Delta is illuminated, as a result of the flaring of ‘waste’ gas, found alongside the oil in Nigeria’s oilfields, but that the oil companies have not sought to exploit, and simply burn.

The flaring of waste gas in Nigeria releases toxic chemicals into the local environment and wastes approximately the same amount of energy every year as 25% of the UK’s entire natural gas consumption – emitting carbon dioxide equivalent to 18 million cars.

Oil exploration of the Niger Delta has caused many significant environmental problems, but the oil money has been of limited benefit to the poor communities in the Delta. A powerful series of photos showing many of the issues of the Delta was recently published on The Atlantic website,

Photo NASA 2003

Tahrir Square

At the height of the Egyptian democracy protests this Spring, protesters in Tahrir Square came under attack from pro-government supporters during Muslim prayers. Christians in the square linked hands to protect their praying Muslim compatriots.

Nevine Zaki took this picture on her camera phone and posted it to Twitter, along with the following tweet:

“Bear in mind that this pic was taken a month after z Alexandria bombing where many Christians died in vain. Yet we all stood by each other.”

After the bombing Muslims had protected Christians praying in their churches from possible further attacks.

This image of inter-faith respect, solidarity and love , was widely circulated across the world’s media, and used to illustrate that things can be different.

In the words of John Wesley, a sixteenth Century Christian theologian, one of the founders of Methodism, and originator of the phrase ‘agree to disagree’:

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

 

Photo by Nevine Zaki