St Bride's: Sermon Series

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

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Richard Fyjis-Walker

First Warning

I find it a rather daunting honour to have been asked to give the first talk in this series, especially in the Journalists church since I have only one flimsy excuse to be here; Up till a quarter century ago I was the obverse of a journalist. A Diplomat.

Second Warning

Peacemaking is beset by complexity and paradox - the fog of peace - so please do not expect me to be wholly straightforward. Also these will be general reflections. To start, three Truisms:
  1. Peace comes not out of the gun but from the heart. Yet - first paradox already noted by our Rector in his introduction - security is a necessary condition for Peace - often needs armed protection. Hence Peace Keepers who nevertheless are rarely Peace Makers - not even UN Secretaries Genera.l
  2. Peacemakers are blessed because without them the entire world - rather than as now just one half or more of it - would be mired in Enmity that, as the dissident Liu Xiabo puts it, incites cruel mortal struggles and destroys tolerance and humanity. Putting society at risk.
  3. Fear, Greed and Human Nature are the three greatest obstacles confronting Peace makers. Fear begets fear - Governments fear people; people fear Governments and you have Libya - or China. Greed; coveting other peoples resources is the greatest cause of conflict and because of human nature has been with us from the beginning. It will not change until human nature changes - if ever.
I can discern three types of peace. Two are essential objectives of any Peacemaker But both conceal dangerous traps. The third is almost pure danger.
  1. The Peace in that most wonderful liturgical phrase; that passeth all understanding; essential for achieving the inner certainty that bolsters the fortitude often necessary for a peacemaker to persevere even to the end.

    THE TRAP: this peace is internal and by definition undefinable. Hence open to human interpretation and error. The certainty with which this floods a person can feed arrogance; be used for good or evil; Jihadists and Crusaders must be among those most at peace with what they are doing.


  2. Peace in Our Time is External - what the entire world most keenly desires - since we certainly have only one life on this earth - and the immediate objective of the real Peace Makers.

    THE TRAP: The siren call of immediate peace can tempt ignoble compromise for instance Chamberlain in 1939

  3. GW Bush or even Muammar Qadhafi peace: With it My friend; Against it My Enemy. A prescription for conflict and oppression.

Next three types Peace Makers : Negotiators; Builders; Impostors. All have their role.

  1. Negotiators have the task at all levels from the international to the personal of peering through the fog of competing interests - as thick as that of war - Discerning opportunities for conciliation; distinguishing between justified compromise and Appeasement; persuading opponents that peace is in their mutual interests.
  2. Builders are those who work on the ground to provide individuals with sufficient confidence to be able to live in peace and unenvious of their neighbours. Law for the lawless, water for the waterless, education for the ignorant, equality for the unequal, prosperity for the poor and so on.

    Incidentally Builders rather than Proselytisers make the best Missionaries. But most numerous of the builders are those who make daily breakfast for their families throughout the world. They fashion the building blocks of peace from the very beginning.


  3. Impostors, who can have their limited uses, are those who pose as peacemakers but in reality seek to turn Clausewitz on his head and regard peacemaking as pursuing their war aims by other means. For instance Kissinger trying to snatch political victory from military defeat at the Vietnam peace negotiations. Most of the threatened regimes in the Middle East are Impostors But - another paradox - if they provide sufficient breathing space for the real peaceseekers to prevail the Impostors will have performed a valuable function.

Tools and Characteristics needed by Peace Makers

First the realisation that Peace is neither Punishment nor Retribution or even Justice - think of the misnamed Peace Treaty of Versailles. Peace is Truth, Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Next needed are the qualities described in the Buddha's vision of the Bodhissathva;

" Always patient, is gentle, agreeable, never violent, never gets alarmed, not attached to anything, perceives reality in all things, not acting, not discriminating"

To these I would add Truth and accurate Information - vital for any peacemaking.

Empathy by which I mean understanding where others are coming from and as important, realising the effect of themselves, the peacemaker, on the others. This is vital for Negotiators and Builders alike. And indeed Diplomats.

Had Western leaders had better information about Afghanistan and been able to empathise with - not condone - the Pushtun Taliban they need not have made the mistake of conflating them with, and indeed forcing them on to Al-Qaeda. Negotiation might have been possible earlier. Think too of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East and Indonesia and the Philippines.

Fearless Intellectual Clarity.

Rigorous Impartiality.

The ability to inspire Trust the essential glue of Reconciliation.

Perseverance.

Non attachment to the peacemakers own interests, especially economic and strategic.

Inventiveness.

And all the other characteristics of the perfect person...

Conclusion

Looking round the world today one may think that permanent peace is about as improbable on Earth as unending day. And we might wonder if any genuine peacemakers exist.

Certainly there are few if any among our western leaders but there are some who are identifiable and a vast majority "for whom there is no memorial".

Of that majority are the myriad breakfasters who leave their tables, take up their brooms and go to sweep for peace as in Cairo.

Identifiable today, I would think of Mandela, Bishop Tutu, Liu Xiabo, Aung San su Shi Greg Mortensen - Builder of Schools in tribal Pakistan; the Gaza doctor Izzedin Abuelaish, author of I will not hate amongst others.

And among us, I would add as a builder; our Rector.

Finally someone you can be excused for never having heard of. An 83 year old orchid growing American intellectual. Living in working class Boston, failing in health and almost unacquainted with the Internet His works on non-violence, notably a 93 page guide to toppling autocrats called From Dictatorship to Democracy that can be down loaded in 24 languages have guided movements in Bosnia, Estonia, Myanmar and now in the Middle East. The grandfather of non-violent action his first book, on Gandhi, had a foreword by Einstein - Gene Sharp.

Is there any conclusion ? Only that the Peacemaker's lot is not an easy one. But if we are ever to follow the most profound of Christ's exhortations to love one another- even a little - let alone as ourselves there must be no end of Peacemaking or Peacemakers - truly the Children of God.

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