Peace for one day

A schoolyard in a big urban neighborhood; recess - and one boy less physically mature and shy is being bullied over in a corner. He is scared and there is no one to take his side - all the other boys are friends of the bully. He knows that if he cries, it will get worse. And if he fights back, it will get worse.

The scene depicted above is not an obscure piece of fiction; it happens every day and, in fact, the same sad human sickness is played out within some families and among tribes, nations, interest groups, religious extremists and in so many more places and situations. Since Cain murdered his brother Able, the brokenness of the human condition has been on display, and bloodshed has stained the earth across the globe. We are all aware of it, yet most would prefer not to dwell on this reality.

Some time ago, I heard a profound definition of violence that has stayed with me: "Violence is anything, done or not, that diminishes the dignity of another person." Think about this definition and how inclusive it is. Something done or not, something said or not and in whatever way, can diminish the dignity of another -- a dignity we all possess whether young or old, for we are all made in the image and likeness of God, possessing a dignity beyond measure.

The truth is that the seeds of violence are in each of us though, perhaps, in less dramatic ways. They are evident in the way we sometimes treat one another, even our friends and dear ones. It seems to me that the only way forward toward a place and time of peace begins with our own awareness and acknowledgement that the capacity for violence exists in each of us. Identifying how this ability sometimes plays out in our interactions with others can enable us to choose a more wholesome path.

Twenty-four years ago an English actor named Jeremy Gilley, troubled by the violence in our world, decided to explore ways to improve the possibility of peace. His initiative has led to the establishment of Peace Day (International Day of Peace), observed around the globe each year on Sept. 21 and unanimously adopted by the United Nations in 2001 as an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence.

Each year the movement has grown, and last year 470 million people in 200 countries across the world were aware of Peace Day. Millions of persons themselves behaved more peacefully on the day and many others participated in a variety of events to call for peace. Many war torn countries agreed to observe this day of ceasefire, enabling health care organizations to deliver essential medications, vaccines and humanitarian aid to their people.

Why not make Peace Day, Sept. 21, 2014, an event in your town? What would it look like if each one of us, in our homes, offices, neighborhoods chose to make peace more evident? What if each family decided to introduce the topic with children, and if husbands and wives, good friends and lovers, chose to have a conversation about how to advance peace in their relationship(s)?

This week I invite all of us to reflect on this blessed initiative, Peace Day. Let's consider the possibility that each of us can add to the peace in our lives and that of others by embracing this call to choose peace, to make peace with another, to speak about peace and to work to make it happen.

Our faith tradition offers us everything we need to walk the path of peace. We celebrate our Savior as the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. We pray to Mary as the Queen of Peace. Surely any effort made will be blessed and fruitful. Make the pledge! Choose peace!

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- Father James Ronan is pastor of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena parish in Charlestown, Massachusetts