Creating Peace Through Interfaith Understanding
Dear Fellow Alumni and Friends of Fordham,
A priest friend of mine is the director of the Interfaith Peace Project, located in Pittsburg, California. He has recently reminded me that the worldwide observance of the International Day of Peace will be held on September 21. Ours is a troubled and violent world; we would all do well to practice peace. In my friend's letter, he writes:
"The peace we seek is not a far off dream but a treasure we can access in the present moment. We do this by recognizing how we react to an unkind word deciding to understand rather than return the unkindness. We practice peace when we observe how frustrated we become when hearing the daily news. It is then that we seek to become aware of the root causes of violence working in any way we can to redress the injustice.
It is crucial for us to participate in civic, governmental, and cultural events challenging others to realize that working for peace is our precious responsibility as humans seeking to become humane. Our religious and spiritual practices, beliefs and philosophies must reflect the Golden Rule of treating others as we desire to be treated. We must guard ourselves against beliefs that demonize others rather than bless all.
The violence and uncertainty so many people suffer throughout the world is quite alarming, causing many to question if the pursuit of peace makes sense. Consider the many children, women, and men who, throughout the centuries, rose up in the cause of justice and peace. Yes, ours is a dangerous and uncertain time, but now is the time to pursue and practice peace when it is so deeply needed by so many. Think of how many people you can influence with your kindness and understanding in one day.
In the past, the great peacemakers worked in times of strife and upheaval. We are invited to do the same. This is what we know for sure: if we do nothing, the violence will increase; if we respond in constructive and meaningful ways, we might bring about a world blessed with peace. The outcome is uncertain to be sure but the moral demands are clear."
And here are five voices that invite us to practice peace:
"Even today we raise our hand against our brother…We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death. Violence and war lead only to death…"
"Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free."
The Dalai Lama
"If you want peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies."
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
"The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere; it is within each of us."
Black Elk (1863-1950)
Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity
May I be a guard for those who need protection
Shantideva, Indian Buddhist Sage, 700 A.D.
A guard for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood.
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings.
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.
September 21 represents, celebrates, and realizes the hour we decide to share the gift of peace with others. Peace is no longer an option in our world of technological violence. Our survival as a species depends on our willingness to live in peace with all that is. It is our duty to practice the peace we seek.
May all of us make the International Day of Peace part of our lives every day!
Dan Gatti, S.J., JES '65, GSE '66