Bishop Peter Price

Are we peace lovers or peace makers?

The following is a speech delivered by Anglican Bishop Peter Price at an anti-war rally in London on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2002.

I am frightened we are hurtling towards a war that will have unseen and unforeseeable consequences. For we will not only fight a wicked regime but enter a war that could devastate and destroy our friends. My mind goes back to a visit to Iraq in 1999. I was invited with others, including the Bishop of Coventry, to a lunch with a Christian family. At his table our host welcomed us, our Iraqi minders, secret police, and drivers. He took a large unleavened bread and broke it, sharing it with us and saying in Arabic: “Under God, we are all one, as we share this bread.”

Before the meal ended he beckoned me for a quiet word in his garden, telling me in a few hastily grabbed moments what life was like. It was not good: His action that lunchtime put him and his family in danger. “I am making this garden for peace,” he said. “It is on the site of a bomb crater. Come and sit down with me under this fig tree.” In that moment I reflected on the vision of the prophet Micah. “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, or ever again be trained to make war. But each one will sit down under his own vine and fig tree with no one to trouble him.” Today I wonder what will happen to such people, to one who practices “loving his enemy” if war comes.

This march today represents people of all faiths and none. We represent people who believe war can at times be justified, and those who believe that war is always wrong. What unites us is a sense that preparations for war that could begin with a unilateral, pre-emptive strike is illegal, immoral, and unwise. Let there be no mistake. We regard Saddam and his regime as a real threat to his own people, neighbouring countries, and to the world. Saddam must end the repression of his people, abandon his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and respect the legitimate role of the U.N. as it ensures that he does so. But our nations must pursue these goals in a manner consistent with moral principles, international law, and political wisdom.

We must be guided by the vision of a world in which nations stop seeking to resolve their problems by making war. Within the traditions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity there is teaching that obliges governments and citizens to work for the avoidance of war.

Today we are demonstrating for peace. But are we peace lovers, or peacemakers? We must not only demand of governments that they work for peace, but that we as citizens so change our attitudes that peacemaking becomes as natural as breathing. Demonstrations rarely change things immediately. What changes things is when people find in their heart a new resolve, a new courage to shape the world differently. War may come. The question is what will we do then? Do we simply shrup our shoulders and walk away, saying “We demonstrated in Hyde Park, but it failed?”

As a Christian, I follow Jesus of Nazareth who said, “Blessed are the peace makers”; not peace lovers. We all love the idea of peace. Today we are demonstrating for a new kind of world, but it will not come unless we work for it. We cannot be peacemakers only when war threatens. True peacemaking is demanding. It demands new attitudes from governments and citizens; it demands we open our eyes to see all humanity as one and equal; it demands we recognize that a bomb dropped on an Iraqi, Palestiian, or Jew is as a bomb dropped on any of us; peacemaking demands no more unilateral actions by powerful nations; peacemaking demands the dismantling of all weapons of mass destruction.

To build lasting peace we need new international, political, judicial, and financial institutions; the ending of international debt. Peacemaking requires a revitalized United Nations; equality before international law; the ending of discrimination over the application of U.N. resolutions. Peacemaking demands we find common ground by moving to higher ground, rising above old arguments over just war and pacifism.

Today we give a simple message. Stop the war. Contain and disarm Saddam. But building world peace does not happen with slogans or rallies, but through citizens and governments that: Pray peace; think peace; speak peace; and act peace.

Jesus of Nazareth was the greatest peace activist of all, and he said “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God.”