In remembering, we must strive for peace now

Commemorations of war should also remember war's devastation of land, animals and peoples on every side, writes Maurice Andrew.

Now is a time when there are many commemorations of war: the beginning of World War 1, the Battle of Cassino and, at last, one from the New Zealand Wars, the Battle of Gate Pa.

There should not, however, be any such commemorations without remembering war's devastation of land, animals and peoples on every side.

Nor should we finish any commemoration assuming ''peace in our time'' without remembering those peoples suffering from war now, even if of a different kind: for example, in Nigeria.

We should also remember a small country like Lebanon, sheltering more than a million refugees from the war in Syria.

Above all, there should be no commemoration without saying how we can foster peace now.

There are many spheres of life in which this is possible. World service agencies present us with the challenge of peoples among whom war frequently combines with injustice, often between different ethnic groups.

Pakeha in New Zealand would contribute to peace if they/we ceased regarding all others as ''ethnic'' and showed that we realise that we also are just one ethnicity. I had to live in Nigeria before I became aware of a majority who defined me as ''European''.

Fostering peace is connected not only with ethnic spheres of life or with preventing outright war, but with religious, political, economic and social issues: violence against women and children, for example, which often also involves economic justice.

There is also the issue of political justice between nations. New Zealanders attend and report on conferences in this context. They often witness that they were challenged themselves, realising how many differences they had with other participants.

These differences demonstrated the necessity of peace and aided participants to strive towards unity in a common purpose.

Some witness as well that, in the paradoxically creative combination of unity with difference, God is revealed as a source of peace apart from the human participants but one that is also effective through them.

God does not intervene from outside to impose peace but can be effective through human spheres of life.

Another such sphere is given when the biblical ''peace on earth'' is transformed to peace in the earth: when people realise they are not on earth as a kind of floor, but, like the earth herself, are one among many creatures.

This can be a startling transformation in which the God of peace inspires the will to foster peace in the relations of humans with the earth and with other creatures.

One aspect of this relating comes to light when different people(s) acknowledge their own part in the damage done to the earth, sometimes as part of their religion. This admission is so searing for some people that they hear in it the God of peace spurring them on to a new relationship with the earth, one that also plays a part in fostering peace among peoples.

In a war between peoples over a certain piece of earth, they may consider not only their own claims, but also those of God's earth.

Which peoples are able to discover whether they can share the earth? If they are not able, which people can best do justice to that earth?

Which people ''learning war no more'' is able to concede that the other people is more likely to relate to the earth justly?

Maurice Andrew, an Opoho resident, taught Hebrew and Old Testament studies in Germany, Nigeria and Dunedin.


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