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Center for Action and Contemplation

Joining Hands in Peace

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Modern Peace Makers

Joining Hands in Peace
Sunday, October 25, 2015

As I mentioned last week, nonviolence has been taught and modeled by various individuals and religions throughout history. Yet only in the last century has nonviolence become more widely accepted and practiced. This week I’ll briefly introduce several of the “modern peacemakers” whose work has particularly inspired me.

While we are inclined to celebrate individuals as heroes and heroines, we must recognize that alongside each public figure are many nameless people who contributed to the cause. Change happens not because one person was particularly brilliant or unselfish or strong, but because communities joined their energy and wisdom toward a common goal. The full story of change is often longer and wider than a single life.

When we emphasize the individual, there’s a danger that people will think they can’t make a difference because they’re just one person. My intention is not to discourage you from the challenging work of building a peaceful world, but to illustrate how each human being, even with our limitations and weaknesses, can be a vessel of transformative love.

Change really must start with me, with you. Nonviolence begins on the individual level. Gandhi writes, “My optimism rests on my belief in the infinite possibilities of the individual to develop non-violence. The more you develop it in your own being, the more infectious it becomes till it overwhelms your surrounding and by and by might oversweep the world.” [1] As more and more people discover their True Selves, grounded in love, nonviolence will continue to multiply. In the words of two other modern peacemakers:

You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire. —Leymah Gbowee (b. 1972), a Liberian peace activist who led women to help bring about the end of the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003 [2]

Every thought, every word, and every action that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution. Let us join hands to try to create a peaceful world where we can sleep in security and wake in happiness. —Aung San Suu Kyi (b. 1945), the opposition leader in her home country of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize for Peace [3]

So I highlight these individuals with hope that you too will be inspired to join the unstoppable movement of peaceful change.

Gateway to Silence:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” —Gandhi

[1] Mahatma Gandhi, edited by Thomas Merton, On Non-Violence (New Directions: 2007), 38.
[2] Leymah Gbowee, Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War (Beast Books: 2013).
[3] Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 2012.

Image credit: Abernathy children (Donzaleigh, Ralph David, and Juandalynn) march on the front line, followed by Dr. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, leading the Selma to Montgomery March in 1965, Abernathy Family Photos.
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