It is the time it takes to say the Lord's Prayer three times. Sixty seconds. One minute. On September 21, 2010, U.N. International Day of Peace and Global Cease Fire, people throughout the world and of every religious faith will stop for one minute, at noon their local time, to pray for peace.
Peace Day, a.k.a. Peace One Day, is a day set aside for humankind to remind itself that peace on earth is possible. It is a day when we reignite imagination with the flame of faith in a higher power, in a transcendence that is at once beyond and within. It is divine love incarnated in humanity and still living and breathing within us to comfort us.
Peace on earth begins with each of us, and it is a gift we already possess. For Christian believers, it is a gift that Jesus has already given us: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid" (John 14:27).
Jesus has given us an unqualified, unconditional gift. And with this gift, we are able to overcome anxiety and fear. The world wants us anxious and fearful. Businesses use our insecurities to sell us this or that product that will solve our problems and bring us all that we want -- love, success, friendship. We are bombarded with commercials for prescription drugs intended to solve all kinds of health problems, large and small, even if the possible side effects are worse than the original ailment.
Politicians want us fearful so that we will vote for them. They want us afraid of anyone who is not like us -- Muslims, undocumented workers, Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, progressives. They want us worried and fearful about the economy. To tax the rich more or not to tax the rich more, that is the question. (I say to whom much is given, much is required. More on that later.) They want us afraid of our own government. They want us afraid of health-care reform. The world gives us peace as long as we agree with this or that position.
The peace that Jesus gives is not predicated upon anything other than faith in a radical love. He says, "As the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in my love" (John 15:9). The love of Jesus is complete. It has the power to crowd out worry and fear. Peace through faith and love is a gift we already own, and it is our obligation to give it away to others around us.
A kind word, a gentle touch, a smile, a soft answer that turns away anger, silence in the face of an angry provocation or some snarky remark are peacemaking gestures that, like ripples in a pond, spread out from the place where we stand.
On September 21 at noon, we can all stop for one minute, pray for peace, and in so doing remind ourselves that peace is a blessed gift that blesses us all the more we give it away.
Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.