Over the past week, there has been a lot of news about Afghanistan. US soldiers are quickly pulling out of a twenty-year-old war, leaving Americans, international allies and Afghani support workers scrambling to find a way out. Without the presence of a strong US military force, peace in Afghanistan, and likely the surrounding area, is questionable.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God. - Matthew 5:9
Having grown-up in the Mennonite community, pacifism was a familiar tenet. Certainly, when looking within the life of Jesus himself -- He never laid a violent hand on anyone, even those who were bent on killing Him -- it would seem that pacifism would be the standard to live by. To live a life, like Jesus, a fellow, blessed child of God. As a Canadian, growing up in the late part of the 20th century, I certainly saw the strength of my countries peace-keeping ability and garnered a sense of pride within that. But was our peace-keeping ability made possible by other's strong arms?
And, is peace-keeping the same as peace-making? Is a certain level of force required to make peace, or is assertive negotiation the answer? Can you assert yourself without force, without leverage? Is a peaceful example assertive enough? Can we even claim to be an example of peace? Our history certainly doesn't seem to support that. There are so many questions. I admit, it's complicated, and I don't have all the answers.
How do we, then, make peace in a world that is anything but peaceful? I am often drawn to the story of an Amish community in Nickel Mines, who, when ten of their daughters were shot in their school-house by a neighbour with mental illness, who finally shot himself, brought food to the shooters wife and attended his funeral. This act of forgiveness was certainly not a once-and-done thing, but was an ongoing struggle for many years. I think it's an extraordinary example of peace-making.
I am reminded, too, of my neighbour, who, when the Berlin Wall was being built, went back into enemy lines, numerous times, to bring people back to safety from the other side. These are two examples of actively making peace.
How then can we make peace with those who seek to annihilate us today? If we take a page from the book of the Amish and my neighbour, perhaps it means to sponsor more refugees, to send representatives into the war zone to tend to their hurts, to provide for the needs of the community left behind, to go to refugee sites around Afghanistan and help prepare those who have left for entry into a safer country. I'm sure the islands of Greece will soon experience a surgence of refugees.
I pray for protection for those who are unable to leave. I pray for wisdom for those who are left to lead and move the country forward. I pray for strength for those who will be persecuted. I pray for the surrounding countries who will also be affected by what happens over the next few days and weeks. I will also send money, write to my own country's leaders to send help and intercede for the nationals, and I will take action as best I can.
What will you do?
(life vest of a refugee fleeing to Greece)
Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. - James 3:18