Friday, December 21, 2012

Find partners for peace


December might be titled Peace Month because it is the month in which Christians celebrate the birth of the one they call the Prince of Peace. But realistically, peace was in that ancient time, as it is in ours, a scarce commodity.

Talk about peace is cheap, as it always has been. There is, after all, no peace for those who are marginalized, no peace for those whose opinions and concerns are given no place in public discourse.

On United Nations Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, the UN sought to make the case that there is no peace for those whose legitimate interests are ignored.

The Nobel Peace Prize, the most prestigious of all peace awards, is awarded in December. This year, it was given to the European Union, which “for over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.”

As usual, there are those who are excited by the award and its recipients and those who are offended by it.

Critics of the Peace Prize are quick to point out that recipients have sometimes been involved in conflicts in their country rather than simply avoiding all conflict in the name of peace. For example, Nobel laureates Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu were regarded by some in their native South Africa as communist traitors. The Nobel Peace Prize Committee made specific mention of the bishop’s part in the transition to democracy in South Africa.

Despite his Peace Prize, Rev. Martin Luther King was also derided and called a communist in America by those who wished to maintain segregation. The Nobel Committee, called European socialists by its critics, awarded the prize to U.S. President Barack Obama for his work to end the war in Iraq.

The lesson of these prizes is that we do not give peace a chance when we dismiss as unworthy of our attention those who are different, those who are treated as unworthy of the public’s time, those whose opinions make us uncomfortable or those who take an active part in the politics of their time.

Mandela, now 94 and quite likely near the end of his time on earth, calls us to be part of a struggle for peace. Mandela teaches, “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

December and the holiday season should be a time for finding partners so that peace might become more abundant.




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