My Dear People,
We live in a world where there is an endless cycle of violence. No sooner is a conflict over in one part of the world than another begins elsewhere. No sooner is one war ended than another flairs up. And some wars seem to go on and on, and we despair that they will ever end.
Every year the church begins the New Year by praying for peace in a troubled world. Well, our world is as troubled by war and violence this year no less than it was last year. What will bring the cycle of violence to an end? One thing is certain, responding to violence with violence is no answer. For violence begets violence.
We can see that in our own personal lives, in our relationship with family, neighbours and colleagues. If a harsh word is spoken and you respond with another harsh word, things don’t get better, they get worse. Verbal violence is no more effective than physical violence in bringing about peace.
With the year of mercy last year, many of us have been trying to put into practice the challenging teaching of Jesus when he says: blessed are the merciful. Or again when he says: blessed are the meek. But when it comes to the world scene, it seems that nation states are not interested in that teaching of Jesus.
Nations can see mercy as weakness. And no nation wants to be meek and mild. Nations want to be powerful and strong. They put their faith in military might. So even poor countries, who find it difficult to feed their people, see themselves justified in spending money on armaments and weapons of war.
So much money is spent on the accumulation of arms; so much human talent and effort spent in developing weapons of destruction.
Our country, Britain, is now the second largest exporter of arms in the world. The abundance of weapons of war and ammunition helps keep the flames of war alive in many a conflict throughout the world.
The constant wars and armed conflicts show that humanity is all too ready to use violence and force as a solution to disputes and discord, to seek peace through the barrel of a gun.
Jesus says: turn the other cheek. In other words: do not respond to violence with violence. As individuals we find that challenging and difficult to do. Nation states seem to find it impossible.
On this day of prayer for peace, we pray that, inspired by the teachings of Jesus, we may recognise that peace in the world begins with peace in our own hearts and that we are challenged by Jesus to respond to any bitterness and aggression we face from others with words and gestures of love and reconciliation. We in turn need to influence our politicians and those who govern us to seek peaceful solutions to conflict, to use the weapons of diplomacy not of war, and to do all they can to bring the constant cycle of violence to an end.
With my prayers for peace in your lives, peace among nations, peace on earth.
Bishop of Galloway
President of the Justice & Peace Commission