September 21, 2020
Today is the International Day of Peace, also known as “Peace Day.” For the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), every day should be Peace Day, but this is a special day, set aside by a unanimous U.N. resolution in 1981 and observed around the world. It provides “a globally shared date for all humanity to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace.”
It is interesting that the U.N.’s International Day of Peace and the PC(USA)’s Peacemaking Program are about the same age. It was in the early 1980s that the Commitment to Peacemaking, “Peacemaking Congregations,” and the Peacemaking Offering (now the Peace and Global Witness Offering) were begun among Presbyterians. It was a time when both the international community and the church community sensed a need to focus on peace as a priority.
Last year, two groups of Presbyterians learned firsthand about the importance of promoting peace in an international context. In February 2019, a group visited our partners in Rwanda to learn about and from that country’s 100-day genocide in 1994 as they commemorated the 25th year of post-genocide healing and reconciliation work. In a country where 90% of the population self-identified as Christian, we learned about the unspeakable violence that Christians had committed against one another, the Church’s complicity in that violence and the international community’s failure to intervene. The stories of resilience, repentance and reconciliation were abundant and transformative. Then in May 2019, a group of Presbyterians traveled to the edge of the conflict in Eastern Ukraine to meet with church partners from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The group learned about the communities trapped in the conflict zone, the humanitarian and peace-building work of the church on all sides and the way in which U.S. foreign policy has contributed to and continues to perpetuate the conflict. The group expressed the PC(USA)’s solidarity with those working for peace in the region and caring for the victims of the conflict.
It is as clear on this International Day of Peace as it was back in 1981, that our international and church communities must remain steadfast in our work and witness for the “culture of peace” that we seek. Thankfully, we have a continuing and strong presence at the United Nations through our Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. Our congregations and mid councils remain engaged in peace work and witness at the local and regional levels. The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program continues to provide opportunities and resources for the whole church. This year we are hosting International Peacemakers, providing Season of Peace resources, hosting a yearlong gun violence webinar series “Standing Our Holy Ground,” planning the Mosaic of Peace Conference and leading Travel Study Seminars. We are also producing new resources to accompany the Commitment to Peacemaking that will help congregations address racism, poverty, violence, immigration/migration and climate change.
There is plenty to do on this International Day of Peace.
Carl Horton; Coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in the Compassion, Peace & Justice ministry area of the Presbyterian Mission Agency
Today’s Focus: International Day of Peace
Let us join in prayer for:
Let us pray:
God of Peace, your world is well-acquainted with the pain of violence, the misery of poverty, the curse of racism, the brokenness of enmity and the destruction of creation. Place us in the midst of these, make us your instruments and guide us in the way of peace. Amen.