War and peace

Yesterday, I was sorting through the  Christmas cards we’d been sent and, nerd that I am, I made some notes of the images and themes the cards contained.
About half the cards carried a Christian image and a religious greeting, while the other half included the ubiquitous images of robins, snow scenes, carollers and candles. There was even one with a drawing of a Mini above the greeting “driving home for Christmas” 
The religious ones were traditional, with images of churches, wise men (even though they turned up about 2 years later), the nativity and the star. Interestingly about a quarter of them bore the image of a white dove over texts that proclaimed peace to all men and women everywhere. One card included a silhouette representation of Bethlehem. It stopped me in my tracks. The juxtaposition of that stark image beside the dove of peace.  
For most of my adult life I have been involved in peace building, here and further afield. I have worked in Israel and the Palestinian territories and that silhouette of the little town gave me unwelcomed flashbacks to some of events I had witnessed over the years. People murdered because they were of a different tribal allegiance. Villages desecrated because they had refused to cowtow to a local “hard man”. Civilians, always civilians it seems, designated as “collateral damage” in seemingly endless warfare. Children needlessly orphaned for the sake of a principle. Why do we struggle with difference? Why is it our way or no way? Why are we afraid to lay down our weapons and attempt to be creators rather than consumers of our shared future. We created conflicts. We can stop them. It’s difficult but not impossible.
Since Jesus birth, the world been entirely at peace for only 8% of that shared history. Today about 60 active conflicts exist in 40 countries. I am hopeful, in due course, we can stop those guns.
We appear to be good at that, albeit eventually. What is much more difficult is to consolidate, build that fragile gift. Why? Because that has to do with addressing entrenched attitudes and not writing words on paper. Indeed, it is in the post conflict negotiations that we can be at our most feral. History after all is written by the victors. And we want to win. A draw isn’t enough. The problem today is that conflicts are never that simple. We all lose in the end.
The Bible makes 500 references to peace, rarely referring to the absence of war alone. For me, Peace is a grace gift from God, to be nurtured with care and offered unconditionally to all, with love and humility. That is the message of that first Christmas. 
So are we up to being peace makers and builders – in broken families, fractured communities, shattered countries, global politics?

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