Monday, December 29, 2008

What does peace mean…and how can it begin with you?

By Rev. John-Brian Paprock for Capital Newspapers
Originally appeared in the Holiday Worship Directory, Sunday, December 21, 2008

“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” – Sy Miller and Jill Jackson

The dove of peace has become a symbol of this time of year, adorning cards and decorating trees. Peace is an absence and a fullness. It is the hope of all at war and strife, and it is a spiritual promise. Here are the voices of a diverse collection of Madison-area spiritual leaders who were asked what “peace” means to them.

“Peace is the capacity of persons and groups with different values and worldviews to coexist constructively and contribute in a positive and meaningful manner to the health and welfare of their community. Peace begins when I become aware of and sensitive to how my choices and preferences impact others.”

- Rev. Lamarr V. Gibson, pastor, Stoughton United Methodist Church

“Peace is about the service you give to others. A basic tenet of my faith is 'As Within, So Without,' meaning literally that to see peace in this world, you must find peace within yourself, and then present it to those around you.”

- Rev. Tina Miller, senior minister, Tiger's Eye Temple

“Peace has been defined negatively as ‘the absence of war.’ Even then, individuals may not enjoy the experience of peace. We have created a society where “attack ads” sully election campaigns, where litigation is routinely used to solve social and interpersonal problems and where the individual’s competitive impulses are permitted full expression in practically every sphere of life. It shouldn’t surprise us, then, that so many people feel disquieted, agitated, fearful and defensive…. Peace activism and the practice of mediation are important. So is the exchange of collaborative for competitive cultural activities. But unaccompanied by a softening of our collective heart, nothing will really change and peace will remain little more than the absence of war.”

- Rev. Michael Schuler, senior minister, First Unitarian Society
“I see world peace as part of God’s plan, an inevitable development in the maturing of human society. Baha’u’llah’s Writings give me guidance and opportunities to work for peace and unity by bringing together the diversity of our one human family, by working for gender equality, and by meeting in friendship with various religious groups.”

- Ellie Jacobi, Madison Baha’i Assembly secretary
“ParamAtma resides in everyone's heart. He has given us the wisdom to decide whether to take refuge in Him or to embrace the unlimited circle of Birth & Death (Maya). Taking refuge in Him can achieve supreme peace and in turn help lead to peace in the community, state, nation and the world.”

- Krishna Sijapati, Hindu Dharma Circle
“Peace for me personally is when my inner spirit has the deep assurance that I am forgiven for the failures of my past, and am filled with hope when considering the unknown of the future. When I am at peace with who I am as a beloved child of God, I am free to love all those around me with a peaceful spirit of loving-kindness.”

- Rev. Juliana Lesher, chaplain, William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
“‘As-salaamu ‘alaykum;’ This is the customary greetings amongst believers in the Islamic tradition, and its meaning in the Arabic language is: “May peace be upon you all.” The very word “Al-Islam” itself is derived from the Arabic word for peace, which is ‘salaam.’ Peace is the very essence of the Islamic spiritual tradition and all spiritual paths. May God Almighty unite us all together, standing against violence and inhumanity.”

- Abdessamad Mason Zantow, member, Madison Islamic community
"Peacemaking is not an optional commitment. It is a requirement of our faith. We are called to be peacemakers, not by some movement of the moment, but by our Lord Jesus. Peace starts in my family and moves across the world by loving and respecting every person, no matter what border they live within. Working for justice means I'm working for peace.”

- Susanna D. Herro, director, Office of Justice and Pastoral Outreach, Catholic Diocese of Madison

In the midst of all the stresses and distractions of winter in Wisconsin, may each of us find some peace - enough to share with others. +

[Rev. John-Brian is priest/vicar of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Mission in Madison, as well as the director of Inroads Interfaith Ministry.][All photo images in this article were submitted for use.]


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