Progressive Writers Bloc

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

By Bill Becker

Bill Becker

Sunday, April 30, 2006 -- I woke up this morning thinking of Peacefire II: Celebrating America's Peaceful Potential. Sponsored by the South Valley Peace Center, and held yesterday in downtown Visalia, Peacefire was a program of music and an appeal to the Bush administration to bring the troops home from the disastrous and profoundly immoral venture in Iraq. The keynote speaker was Nadia McCaffrey, who lost her son in Iraq, and who received international attention when she defied Pentagon policy by allowing the press to photograph his flag-draped coffin. In her own words:

"From the moment of Patrick's death, my life has been dedicated to Peace and Justice. I have been speaking against the corruption, the immorality and evil of this war of greed, taking the lifes of so many. I am working to bring our troops and our national guardsmen home. Working to halt the killing of innocents civilians and children of Iraq. I am working to expose the truth."

But Nadia was not on my mind; instead I recalled my conversation with the staffers at the booth for the Visalia chapter of Pax Christi USA, the National Catholic Peace Movement. Along with other peace and justice goals, Pax Christi St. Mary's Visalia (PCSMV) seeks to "challenge the horrors of modern war." Then, of all things, what should pop into my head but Jesus's beatitude "blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God."

The pertinence of Jesus's comforting promise to the message of Peacefire II was unmistakable, but something else occurred to me as well. What Jesus did not say was "if you want peace, prepare for war," advice from the ancient Roman Vegetius, which is the gospel followed by the men and women of the Bush administration. No indeed. Jesus said "blessed are the peacemakers," meaning those who actively, patiently, with a deeply held love for all people, and often at great personal risk, work to defuse potentially violent confrontations, who work to promote understanding and tolerance between historically hostile groups, and who reject out-of-hand the fantasy that militarism can bring about a peaceful world. Preparation for war invariably leads to war.

Peacemakers follow Gandhi's dictum: "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." Peacemakers have internalized the wisdom of author Alice Walker: "Look carefully at the present you are constructing. It should look like the future you dream of." America's peacemakers realize that following the dictum of Rome will lead America to the same sorry end that befell the Romans, but much sooner and for the same reason: the addiction to violence.

As for myself, I take no position on the Almighty. But, if Jesus was right, then I'm convinced that those with the spirit of Peacefire in their hearts are indeed the sons and daughters of God.

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