“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Sometime in March 2020, during one of my counseling sessions for a family that lost some of her members to the unrest going on in southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon, one of them asked me, “Father, in a world where violence has become the order of the day, is peace ever going to be possible?”
The question was one that was too difficult for me to answer. The question brought a cold silence to my office for nearly five minutes. After a while, I said to them, “Remember the words of Jesus Christ in the scripture, “Let your hearts not be troubled, and do not be afraid. Peace I give you, my peace I leave with you, not as the world gives do I give.” Although, at last I was able to give an answer, but I really felt my answer was not enough.
So, that question pushed me to find out more on violence and peace. In my research on the two opposite words, I recalled vividly my class on Peace Studies in the seminary, where in one of the classes, our professor, a moralist of great repute, Revd. Dr. Ray Aina, drew the class’ attention to the fact that peace is often not the absence of war. His stance as it were, did not really make much meaning to me at the time, because I was preoccupied with getting my weekly assignments done.
But today, his stance, just like the assertions of other moralists and peace advocates that I later read about, makes more sense to me. More so, because as a pastor I meet different kinds of people in search for peace nearly on a daily basis.
Violence in today’s world is not just physical or behavioural; such as war, domestic violence, human rights violations through exclusion and brutality… There is also the violence of deprivation, and domination. This is a situation where collective resources of people are taken over by a very few, through marginalization; or where a particular tribe gains dominance over others.
We have come to discover that the former results to more violence when the marginalized attempt to protest for their rights. This is a clear case of violence done by those who have been given the mandate to ensure better life for the people. What about the violence of race, tribe, colonialism, neo-colonialism, ethnocentrism, violence of domination, inequality and oppression? The list is endless.
So, one discovers therefore that violence touches on nearly every area of human endeavour. Consequently, the absence of war does not mean peace.
From the backdrop therefore, is peace possible?
To arrive at an answer, let us define violence and peace; identify various forms of violence as already given in brief, and from there to the understanding of whether or not peace is attainable.
VIOLENCE: In 2002, the WHO Geneva World Report On Violence And Health, defined violence as an “Intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group, or community, that either results in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation” (WHO World Report On Violence And Health, Geneva, 2002).
In brief, violence is therefore “an extreme form of aggression, such as assault, rape or death” (“Violence,” American Psychological Association).
From the first definition, one discovers that violence is an intentional show of power (force), which might result in harmful consequences, either to oneself or others.
For example, in an attempt to unleash violence on the other, one might also cause harm to oneself; either by an action resulting from self-defense, or by chance.
Having said that, let us identify the specific forms of violence as given by Council of Europe Portal in the article, “Compass: Manual for Human Rights Education with the Young.”
Direct Violence: Here, violence is seen as physical or behavioural. This is the violence of war, domestic extreme aggression, exclusion or torture.
Structural Violence: This is the kind of violence where collective resources and rights of individuals or people are deprived. Simply put violence of poverty, and marginalization.
Cultural Violence: This is the violence that uses culture, tribe, and nationality to oppress others. This form of violence include, tribalism, racism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, religionism, etc. According to Council of Europe Portal, it is the “Moral exclusion that rationalize aggression, domination, inequality and oppression.”
PEACE: According to John Galtug, a renowned Norwegian peace scholar, and researcher, there are two sides to peace.
A. Negative peace: This he describes as one where there is no war, no violent conflict between states or within state.
B. positive peace: He describes this as absence of war or violent conflict combined with a situation where there is equity, justice, and development. Put succinctly, peace is “a state of tranquility, quiet, harmony; absence of violence” (“Peace,” English Online Dictionary).
From the forms of violence above, it becomes obvious that from one end of the world to the other, there is one form of violence or the other. Hence, there is hardly anyone who has never experienced at least one of the three forms of violence. To that end, we have seen governments of nations, and by extension International Organizations, under different umbrellas advocating for peace.
One of the main peace drivers is the United Nations (UN), which was established on October 24th, 1945, following the atrocious acts of violence committed against humanity during the Second World War.
Ever since the UN’s inception, it has been on the front line of achieving peace. In its Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, among other definitions, it clearly states that “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security.” By this declaration, what’s obvious is that peace is the driving force of the UN. Thus, one can easily guess why its motto is, “Peace, Dignity, and Equity, on a Healthy Planet.”
But has the United Nations, after 75years, been able to offer World Peace? Has it been able to fulfill its motto of peace, dignity, equality on a healthy planet?
HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE PEACE?
According to Global Campaign for Peace Education, “We achieve peace amidst the violence of our world, beyond the culture of peace whereby citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflicts and struggle for justice in non-violent ways, live by international standard of human rights and equity, appreciate cultural diversity, and respect for mother earth and one another.”
With due respect to the assertion above, I think it is more theoretical than practicable. Thus, according to the founder of Opus Dei, Blessed Josemaria Escriva, he said, “Some people try to build peace in the world without welcoming God’s love in their own hearts. How could they possibly achieve peace that way?” (CHRIST IS PASSING BY, 1974).
I therefore think that the true peace that we need is God’s love in our hearts. For it is that inner peace; the peace that the world cannot give, the peace that no amount of violence can take away.
Finally, in the midst of the world’s violence, we must continue to strive hard to achieve this peace that the world cannot give, the peace of Christ; that inner peace where the song of Horatio Spafford in 1873 finds root.
Spafford was a man who saw, and felt the pains of violence. The violence of loss of means of livelihood. The violence of the loss of four daughters in a single day, save for his wife. Yet, Spafford saw peace that the world could not give, the inner peace, that peace of soul. And so he sang:
“When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll,
LWhatever my lot thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul…”
Peace in your soul!
© Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI, August 4th, 2020
Israel GodsPower ANAWEOKHAI is a Catholic Priest of the Missionary Society of St Paul. He is currently on mission in the Archdiocese of Douala, Cameroon.