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A Time to Move beyond War
by Naomi Drew, M.A.
author of Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World

“Oh Lord, let me be an instrument of thy peace.”
- Saint Francis of Assisi


The philosopher Norman Cousins once said, “War is an invention of the human mind. The human mind can invent peace.” The question is “How?”

How can we use our resources, our time, our energy, our common visions, and moreover, our will to invent peace during a time when our country stands on the brink of war? By peace I don’t mean pacifism or turning the other cheek. What I’m talking about is a dynamic, pro-active process wherein we address the conditions that lead to war early enough to prevent future wars from happening. Did you know that as you read these words there are 36 wars being waged around the world?

War goes against the one of the most fundamental tenets of the Judeo-Christian ethic and other world religions: “Thou shalt not kill.” The most important question facing humanity today is, how do we transform the conditions and beliefs that have us choose to kill?

The next critical question is: How can I be a part of this -- what role can I play in inventing peace? It is time for each of us to seek the answer.

We must assert the same diligence in preventing war as we have in preparing for it. This is so for regular people and those at the helms of power. We must seek viable alternatives to violence so that the use of force becomes our last option, not our first. This is not to suggest that we should leave ourselves unprotected. Even Gandhi didn’t recommend doing that. But there is a mid-point we are not using, a place between over-arming ourselves -- as we are now, and pacifism. It is a place of balance where we keep ourselves protected, and at the same time, pursue the ways of peace. 52 % of our tax dollars go to war and the military. Why not split this figure, so half can go to the United States Institute of Peace or the newly proposed Department of Peace? Perhaps if we allowed more of our resources to go toward “inventing peace,” we would cease to see war as the only option in the face of conflict.

Unfortunately, when we speak of nonviolence we imagine people throwing down their arms and turning the other cheek. This is a fallacy. Non-violence is a dynamic process that employs effective pro-active alternatives. It is daring and courageous, not weak and capitulating. This is illustrated brilliantly in a book called A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict, by Peter Ackerman and Jack DuVall. The authors describe numerous situations throughout history where nonviolent options were successfully employed to combat conflict and oppression. "To succeed, a nonviolent movement cannot simply take a principled stand for “nonviolence.” It has to devise a strategy for action. In turn, this strategy must broadly communicate goals, mobilize people and select sanctions to punish opponents. To shift the momentum of conflict in their favor, nonviolent resisters must diversify the scope and variety of these sanctions, defend their popular base against repression and exploit their opponents’ weaknesses and concessions.”

This is exactly what the people of Denmark did during World War II. When the Germans marched in and attempted to arrest 7000 Jews, the Danish people, most of them Christian, were successful in foiling them. How did they manage to accomplish this seemingly impossible task without the use of violence? Through unified, direct actions that weakened the Germans' power base: by orchestrating mass strikes and protests, by refusing to honor curfews, by students refusing to speak German in language classes, by creating a system for saving the lives of their Jewish citizens, even by having Danish songfests throughout the nation to show strength and unity. Through the combination of all of these, the Danes reasserted their power in the face of oppression. The strength of their collective acts of resistance weakened the strangle-hold hold the Nazi's were attempting to apply, and by the time October 1st, 1943 rolled around -- the date the Nazi's ordered the arrest of 7000 Jews -- a system had been put in place for saving them. Again, from A Force More Powerful: “All kinds of Danish organizations sheltered Jewish families -- in private homes, in hospitals -- and shuttled them to the coast, where fishing boats carried them across a narrow channel to Sweden." As a result, close to 6600 of 7000 people whose lives were marked for death, were saved.

The Danes were the living embodiment of Saint Francis’ eloquent words: “Where there is doubt, let me sow faith. Where there is despair, let me sow hope.” The Danes literally became instruments of God’s peace, and because of this, they accomplished what others believed to be impossible. May we allow their bravery and faith to be guideposts for us in the 21st century. Let us follow in their footsteps, even if it means going against the tide.

Martin Luther King once said, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal” This is such a time. We must raise our voices in a rousing call for peace, and we must speak loud enough to be heard beyond the rumblings of nay sayers who want us to believe that war is the only option. We owe this to our children and to all the children in our world whose voices fall silent beneath the thunderclap of weapons.

Now, more than ever, it is essential that every one of us live peace in our words, actions, and daily lives. We must each be instruments of God’s peace -- the time to start is today.





Naomi Drew is recognized around the world as an expert on conflict resolution and peacemaking in schools and homes. Hailed as visionary, her work has enabled educators, parents, and people of all ages to live together more cooperatively.

Her work has been recognized by educational leaders throughout the country. People of all ages have attested to durable changes in their relationships after applying the principles Drew outlines. Her work has been featured in magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV and she currently serves as a parenting expert for “Classroom Close-ups,” a public television show.

She is the author of four books, serves as a consultant to school districts, leads seminars, and runs parenting courses. Her latest book is Hope and Healing: Peaceful Parenting in an Uncertain World. Visit www.learningpeace.com for more information on Naomi Drew and her work.


 

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