October 2013

Peacemaking starts with us

Our world is in a sad and destructive state. Nation upon nation is in fear of one another. Can true peace ever reign, asks Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS

Last week on October 11, the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) “for its extensive efforts to eliminate chemical weapons”. This organisation was founded in 1997, 16 years ago, to rid the world of chemical weapons.

Given the horrific use of chemical weapons in Syria this year, this award is a sobering reminder to all the world’s citizens of the horrendous impact of war in all its forms. To kill and maim people for any reason, but especially for reasons of political, economic and social power, is evil by whatever means of weaponry – conventional, nuclear, or chemical.

According to the website Global Issues, the world spends more than US$1,000 billion annually on the military. The permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the USA, Russia, France, the UK and China – sell more armaments to developing nations than they give in aid to these nations. The USA and Russia have the largest armaments industries in the world.

Our world is in a sad and destructive state. Nation upon nation is in fear of one another. I ask myself: Can true peace ever reign? We need similar organisations to the OPCW to eliminate all weapons of war – nuclear and so-called conventional. But this is only part of the problem. We need leaders and citizens of all nations to actively and energetically seek peace and pursue it.

Ironically, in the United Nations headquarters garden in New York, there is a statue donated by Russia in 1959 called “Let us Beat Swords into Ploughshares”. The plaque says: “The desire to put an end to war – convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all (Evgeniy Viechetich)”.

This quote from the Jewish Scriptures of Isaiah, Joel and Micah comes from a period some 3,000 years ago, and yet humankind has not learnt the lesson. I quote from Isaiah (2:4): “Beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore”.

What will it take for nation to live at peace with nation, neighbour to live at peace with neighbour? Is this a pipe dream?

At his installation last month as the new Chief Rabbi for Britain and the Commonwealth, Ephraim Mirvis called strongly for efforts to create peace. He said with great passion:

In years to come I would love people to look back on this day and associate it with the time when finally we were on the path to beating swords into ploughshares in Israel and throughout the Middle East. May Almighty God bless leaders with the wisdom to make wise and responsible decisions through these days, weeks and months of challenge.

His challenge is not only to leaders of nations, but to each one of us.

Hatred, revenge and bitterness are the great obstacles to seeking and finding peace within our own lives. How many families are torn apart by an inability to forgive and the harbouring of past hurts? How many neighbourhoods are wracked with conflict because of squabbles and verbal abuse? How many individuals carry rancour and pain because they find it impossible to let go and to seek inner peace and hope?

Whatever the swords and spears within our own hearts and minds, may we individually and as communities seek to turn these weapons into creative tools to forge peace wherever we might find ourselves, in what often feels like a sorry and destructive world.

Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is a former Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She served as leader from September 2005 until September 2017. In 2013, Clare was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission in recognition of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ work with asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians and the victims of domestic violence.

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