Work for Peace


Image by drp via Flickr

In truth, I struggle each year as Sept. 11 approaches. The day begs that something be done to remember and to respond to the evil and tragic violence acted out almost ten years ago. The question is how do we do that and do it well? What do we do?

Clearly the day has special significance for those who lost loved ones, friends, and neighbors that day. Our hearts go out to them, and our prayers.

That day violence was no respecter of persons. People of many religions and none, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, agnostics and atheists, people from many nations and cultures, all died because of this act of hatred and terrorism. And the circle of violence expands. We all were wounded.

I am convinced that the best way to honor this day is to stand as clearly as I can against all forms of terrorism and everything that feeds it: fear, pride, intolerance, racism, repression, enmity, hatred, and violence itself. I am also convinced that the place in which I must first take this stand is in me.

Kierkegaard concludes his wonderful book The Works of Love by observing that the place where the battle for love is most difficult and must be fought with intensity is in our hearts. It is not in the world where the battle line is drawn: it is drawn in us. We become people who love, or we will never love as we should.

He is not arguing for a passive stance in the world until we reach some inward spiritual perfection, but rather he is observing that the root of hate, violence, and indifference is in us. And there we must fight for love.

The same is true if we are to be people of peace. We must do the things that are necessary in our communities. But we cannot neglect the inward, inner, spiritual work. The way to fight terrorism is to work for peace. To work for peace we must become people of peace. What Mahatma Gandhi once said remains true: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

I have no great wisdom of my own, so I share with you a few words on peace that come to mind as I remember Sept. 11. I hope they touch and challenge you as they do me.

From the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“I’ve decided that I’m going to do battle for my philosophy. You ought to believe in something in life, believe that thing so fervently that you will stand up with it till the end of your days. I can’t make myself believe that God wants me to hate. I’m tired of violence. And I’m not going to let my oppressor dictate to me what method I must use. We have a power, power that can’t be found in Molotov cocktails, but we do have a power. Power that cannot be found in bullets and guns, but we have a power. It is a power as old as the insights of Jesus of Nazareth and as modern as the techniques of Mahatma Gandhi.”

“I’m convinced that if we succumb to the temptation to use violence in our struggle for freedom, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to them will be a never ending reign of chaos.”

“Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that. Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”

(Coretta Scott King, The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Newmarket Press, 1987, 71, 90)

From Thomas Merton:

“Only love, which means humility, can exorcise the fear that is at the root of all war.”

“Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men, and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”

(Thomas Merton, Passion for Peace: Reflections on War and Nonviolence, Crossroads, 1995, 34, 38)

Thich Nhat Hanh:

“Aware of the sufferings caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning the ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world.”

“Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation , social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving-kindness  and learning ways to work for the well being of (all life)…I will prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of the other species of the planet.”

“Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others, and to relieve others of their suffering.”

(Thich Nhat Hanh, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology, Parallax Press, 2008, chapter 2.)

Jesus of Nazareth: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”  Matt. 5:9

How might we honor this day? Let us remember and pray for all who lost their lives that day, and in the wars that followed. Let us pray and work for the end to the senseless violence and acts of terrorism.  Let struggle against everything that feeds such violence in others, and especially in ourselves.

Miroslav Volf, who lived through the ethnic violence in Serbia, writes: “A more difficult question remains: what resources will help us resist the temptation of violence.”   (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation, Abingdon Press, 1996, 249.)

It is a question each of us must answer.

Albert Schweitzer wrote in a letter to Norman Cousins: “I decided I would make my life my argument. I would advocate the things I believed in, in terms of the life I lived and what I did.” (Howard E. Robles, compiler, Reverence for Life: the Words of Albert Schweitzer, HarperSanFrancisco, 1993, 41)

How might we best honor the day? By deciding like Schweitzer, that we will make our lives an argument for peace.

Pastor Bill

A Letter from The United Methodist Bishops on 9/11:

To access the letter: copy and paste the address in your browser.

38 thoughts on “Work for Peace

  1. Thanks for your insights…Love is such a difficult thing to grasp in the midst of violence. When we hurt, we want to lash out because it is a natural thing to do. Loving is a discipline that only few master. I strongly believe in love but I also believe we live in a time where so many people hate. They hate all kinds of things and sometimes that hatred is pointed towards people who have hurt them somehow. Forgiveness is no easy thing but it is a must if we want to carry on in peace. I think you have done well in presenting and quoting the whole act of 9/11.

  2. This is one of the best-spoken/written calls for peace I’ve ever read and I heartily, with all my heart, thank you for putting such wise words and loving sentiments together. From the beautifully phrased words of your own heart, to the beams of truth that shone from those we now recognize as prophets and spiritual leaders, this is one powerful piece of writing. Thank you. It needs to be said over and over again – Peace is Within our reach, within ourselves, and it is our choices that determine the world we live in. Choose Peace. Be Peace. And peace reigns. Thank you, Rev Bill.

  3. Bill – I appreciate the thoughtfully written tribute. Man sure gets himself all tangled up by trying so hard. Maybe if we listened to each other, shared our loves and fears we would stop fighting about mundane matters.
    I cried today for those who lost and those who sacrificed. May we learn that only love will heal our wounds.

    Thanks again my friend

    Moon smiles

  4. Amen!

    Bill thank you for this. I will cherish it. You’ve said everything I want to say and with great kindness … I could not write about this today.

    I’d like to repost the post on my blog. It deserves a wide audience. I’d like to do my bit toward that end. All links and credits as appropriate. Let me know.

    Hugs –

  5. First of all I want to thank you for bringing me here Bill and also for posting these wonderful sentiments and truths together in such a powerful reflection of how and what our choices should be. If we all can get to the point where we realize what life is all about, that we can live together in harmony, without hatred that changes the world we live in, the universe would be a better place. With your insight and reflections here, I am happy to say that I know you and share this place with you. Thank you Bill, you are such an inspiration to so many..and may peace live in everyone”s heart…without that, we’re all lost souls. Much love my friend x (Loved the quotes)

  6. Pingback: WORK FOR PEACE (via Faith & Conversation) « MUSING BY MOONLIGHT

  7. Jamie and Rev Bill Cook

    I hope this SANE message gets circulated around the web — for I was reading many disheartening voices of pain, and fear, and lack of forgiveness, the comments in the news and on the web. One of many but not the only one — that concerned me was Israel’s ultra-right foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman says there will be no Middle East peace in the next generation. — There are many in the world that want peace to reach that critical point, where we put down the weapons and pray for peace instead.

    Thank you Revbill fo these words we must take to heart.


    • Thanks. It is an amazing reality that some are simply committed to violence for one reason or another. Often because they believe that the lives of other people, even their own, are less important, less sacred, than their cause. Too many make that decision much too easily. – bill

  8. remarkable piece bill…i appreciate the call for piece as well as the blending of the words from great men from multiple religeons…it was in descriminatory and until we rise above our hatred, i really dont know where our world will be…

  9. There are many ways of dealing with terrorism.
    Our governments responses were the wrong decision i suppose.
    it just fuelled more hatred.
    Resulting in the London bombings.
    i feel for those people and the families who paid a high price for democracy.
    i will always remember it as the day the world stopped to pay their respects

    • I do think we have seen the anger and violence grow. It would be good if the memory of the day could eventually serve as a call toward peace and tolerance. As always, thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughts. – bill

  10. Pingback: As Each Drop Falls | The Progressive Christian Alliance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s