The Price of Peace
Saturday, September 5th
Last weekend Jenny and I went to Greenbelt. Well, online, anyway. It's one of the reasons I'm late with this blog as we ended up at our caravan and got sidetracked with visiting old colleagues in the area (North Wales).
One of the online discussions at Greenbelt had "Black Lives Matter" as its subject and involved Poet, Lemn Sissay, Author and broadcaster, Emma Dabiri, Priest and writer, Azariah France-Williams, and Christian Aid CEO, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi.
A comment by Azariah France-Williams has stayed with me all week.He reflected on a saying his great grandmother used to repeat to his mother: 'I give up my rights for peace.' He commented that for the present generation of young people protesting for Black Lives Matter, the reverse is more appropriate - 'I give up my peace for rights.'
My own mother had a saying which always came out when there was any dissension between members of the family: 'Little birds in their nest should all agree.' She was part of a generation which, like Azariah's great grandmother, would do anything to maintain the peace in the world. The trouble is, that attitude doesn't solve anything.
Personally, I'm with Azariah on this one. There will be no desirable peace in the new normal unless I am prepared to give up my personal peace to fight for the rights of black people, refugee children, abused women and exploited delivery workers - to name but a few!
I am reminded of a favourite hymn of mine by Alan Gaunt which has these verses:
We pray for peace,
but not the easy peace
built on complacency
and not the truth of God.
We pray for real peace,
the peace God’s love alone can seal.
We pray for peace, but not the cruel peace, leaving God’s poor bereft and dying in distress, we pray for real peace, enriching all the human race.
We pray for peace, and not the evil peace, defending unjust laws and nursing prejudice, but for the real peace of justice, mercy, truth and love.
I think I would have to add that praying for peace will not achieve anything unless it is accompanied by action and protest. Azariah suggested that what we need at the moment is not to be at peace, but to be disturbed - to be uncomfortable with the way things are and to do something about it. I like peace, but if I am going to be true to myself, I must never cease to be disturbed by the denial of the rights of so many in our global society.
Lemn Sissay, in the same discussion, suggested that our degree of humanity as people is defined by our attitude to racism. He may not have said it in those words, but that was the sentiment. He is a champion of respect for each other as human beings, having been denied any respect himself until he left care in his late teens. Even his real identity and birth name was hidden from him.
If my sense of injustice and inhumanity ceases to trouble my own peace, am I not being diminished as a person? If I lose respect for anyone I am aware of in this world and leave them to their fate for the sake of my well-being, then I have lost sight of the Jesus who came, not to bring peace - but a sword (Matthew 10:34).
Inner peace is the only one I should be praying for. And that will not come from locking myself behind a barricade of ignorance of the world's ills. It will only come from knowing that I have responded to the disturbing spirit of Jesus which prompts me to struggle with Nestlé's and Coca Cola's attempts to deprive indigenous North and South Americans of their natural water supplies; when I lobby my MP to demand better human rights for asylum seekers; when I campaign for black lives to matter and poverty to be a thing of the past.
Let There Be Peace By Lemn Sissay
Let there be peace So frowns fly away like albatross And skeletons foxtrot from cupboards, So war correspondants become travel show presenters And magpies bring back lost property, Children, engagement rings, broken things.
Let there be peace So storms can go out to sea to be Angry and return to me calm, So the broken can rise up and dance in the hospitals. Let the aged Ethiopian man in the grey block of flats Peer through his window and see Addis before him, So his thrilled outstretched arms become frames For his dreams.
Let there be peace Let tears evaporate to form clouds, cleanse themselves And fall into reservoirs of drinking water. Let harsh memories burst into fireworks that melt In the dark pupils of a child’s eyes And disappear like shoals of silver darting fish, And let the waves reach the shore with a Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh