In Sign Language, Spanish, Hebrew and English these words are written, "May Peace Prevail On Earth" and attached to a Peace Pole dedicated on Sunday by the Seal Beach Center for Spiritual Living, a congregation of Religious Science. These words, "May Peace prevail on earth," are part of the weekly service as a lamp is lit symbolizing the desire, the vision for world peace. It is a vision wholly embraced and sought by Doctor Reverend Peggy Price, Dr. Peggy, minister at the church, and spiritual advisor and mentor to many; including yours truly.
Dr. Peggy challenges me routinely with sermons, teachings and our conversations regarding peace on earth. Universal peace, a world without war or armed conflict, is quite a vision. It is a vision everyone certainly has. But to what extent does our current reality enable such a vision? This is the source of my challenges with the means by which the vision may be achieved. I believe it is the source of all, or most, people's challenges with achieving a state of world peace.
I see peace as two-fold, there is Peace which is internal and individual. Daily I strive to live in Peace. Dispel my internal conflicts and quell daily assaults on my psyche that arise from just living life and working at the goals of achieving inner, personal Peace. Release anxieties, fears and frustrations for myself and family at times can be challenging but ultimately working to achieve that inner-Peace brings the release I seek.
Then there is peace, as in peace between nations, between rivals, between foes. This is the peace where there is absence of war, absence of oppression, absence of violence. How do we get to this state of global peace?
Yesterday in her sermon Dr. Peggy spoke of Peace within, saying (paraphrasing and not a direct quote to what she said), no President, no Senator, no Congressman, no Mayor can give us Peace. No Reverend, no Minister, no Priest, no teacher can give us Peace. For each of us must find our own Peace. Once we find it for ourselves by living within it we will show others that Peace so they too may find theirs. But can these people, elected officials, religious leaders, give us "peace?"
Many feel they can. Many feel that if our President and elected leaders withdrew American troops from conflicts and "hot-spots" around the world that other leaders would follow and peace would result. If we speak to the despot building nuclear arms with the intent of destroying another civilization or nation, that conversation will result in peace and the absence of conflict. That if the United States were to unilaterally disarm and disable all nuclear weapons all other nations would follow suit creating a world free from nuclear weapons. Ardent and committed pacifists believe if we remove the military element from our nation we will not have to turn the other cheek as the absence of the ability to make war, even in defense, will disarm those who would strike our cheek in the first place.
Dr. Peggy is not, to my understanding though I have never asked her, an ardent pacifist. She recognizes that past conflicts and wars have resulted in freedom from tyranny, slavery and oppression. Acknowledging the positive outcome of past conflicts seems to acknowledge the potential need for future conflicts resulting in freeing others from tyrannical oppression or protecting freedoms they already have. The question becomes what is a "just" war? A "just" conflict? How is this framed within a vision of global peace?
Peace and safety are inter-related. The safer one feels the more at Peace one is. Absence of threats, physical, financial, social, makes finding Peace a much easier process for us. Perhaps this is why recent studies have shown that we become happier after the age of fifty. A myriad of factors may contribute to the happiness that grows as we age and mature, but deep seeded in this must be an inner-Peace and knowledge of personal safety.
Lack of safety, or the feeling or perception of safety, is the primary factor for lack of peace in our nation. With declarations and acts of war against our country by some Islamists, a small percentage of all Muslims globally, we know we are not entirely safe. For decades now striking in our country and others killing ordinary citizens in their ordinary routines, these groups have changed how we may achieve world peace. No longer lining up army to army, division to division, company to company to wage battle, the new threats to our safety and security come in bombs planted in cars or planes. With a belief of eternal pleasures if they die in their pursuit to eradicate "non-believers" these terrorists create the biggest challenge in history to the freedoms and liberties of not only our nation but others as well. How to combat these threats while maintaining a vision that peace prevails on Earth?
As we enter yet another phase in our war in Afghanistan, a new commander and a deadline to withdrawal American troops and turn over security to the Afghan government. As we face another deadline to withdrawal our troops in Iraq and allow local police and the Iraqi military to provide the security for Iraqi citizens. As we withdrawal our presence while terrorists remain in the region, what is to become of the people who live in the region? How is that vacuum filled? Presumable as it was filled before, by despots and tribal leaders who oppress the population and murder those who are of a different sect or tribe. And how does this impact our safety, or does it? And if it does not should we be concerned?
The United States of America is not perfect, but it is far less imperfect than any other nation on earth. We are a morally just society that has at times lost a bit of its morality. Whatever our flaws and imperfections, we stand as a beacon to those who desire freedom and liberty for all, including women. That beacon is a challenge to those who see freedom and liberty as threats to their power, their beliefs and their ability to oppress. When any conflict or crisis occurs where does the world look for intervention and/or relief? Not China. Not Russia. Not France. Not Senegal or Australia or Venezuela or Cuba. Not Saudi Arabia or Syria or Iran.
What will make it possible for our nation, for America, to be at peace throughout the globe? Free from attacks, free from being a target for those who wish to deny liberty and freedom to all? Free from being called upon to defend and protect other nations?
May peace prevail on Earth. Yes, may it. May it prevail in my lifetime, or my children's, or my grandchildren's, or my great-grandchildren. Some future generation will surely know this vision to come true. For today I embrace the vision for world peace, while also knowing our safety and freedom is challenged and must be defended so those future generations may know that peace.
In the meantime I shall continue to strive for Peace. If all individuals are able to find this Peace it puts us all a step closer to peace prevailing on Earth. First with ourselves, then with our neighbors, then within our community, our city, our state and within our nation. When we reach absence of armed conflict and violence within our own country we then truly become a Beacon for the rest of the world and truly laying the foundation for global Peace.
If you are driving by the corner of 5th and Marina in Seal Beach, as you come to a halt at the stop sign, take a look at the Peace Pole and envision what your life, your children's life, would be like should Peace Prevail on Earth.
Click to learn more about the Seal Beach Center for Spiritual Living
UPDATE: This morning the Supreme Court ruled in McDonald v. Chicago that 2nd Amendment rights extend to all individuals in all states. Interestingly the decision quoted extensively from members of Congress post-Civil War debating the 14th Amendment and the rights of "freedmen", former slaves, to keep and bear arms. The 19th Century lawmakers believed that a "loaded musket" was at times necessary for the freedmen to protect themselves, their families, their household and their freedoms. Peace, avoidance of conflict, by armed protection as a right. Interesting in the historical perspective of a topic still debated today.