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An Interfaith Response to Violence Near and Far

By Dorothy J. Maver and Deborah Moldow

September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace

February 1-7, 2012

World Interfaith Harmony Week


Americans were shocked and saddened by the seemingly random shooting at a movie theatre in Colorado in July and the tragic shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin in August. All across the country, hearts opened to the suffering of the victims and their families and friends, and people from every faith sent prayers for healing. Imagine these beams of light streaming from people of the vast range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds that is the pride of our country, plus prayers from countless others around the world.

And what about the many other instances of violence, as well as natural disasters, hunger and diseases, causing untold misery all over the globe? Every day, people are praying for one another – for those dear to them and for those in harm’s way whom they may not even know.

Is there power in all of these prayers? Do they help alleviate suffering? Do they help to bring us closer to peace? Closer to living in healthy relationship with self, others and the world around us?

For a person of faith, the answer should be a resounding yes – for isn’t that what faith means? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (New Testament, Hebrews 11:1)

Those of us who believe in the power of prayer can surely imagine what it would mean to harness our collective prayer power to truly shift the course of not just one illness, but the very illness that has plagued human history, our addiction to violence.

Many pieces are in place for this long-needed transformation to a global culture of peace. We have mapped every corner of our beautiful planet. We communicate with one another even in remote lands. Our nations gather at a common table to establish collective norms based on shared values. Even our religions have made great strides in increasing understanding of one another through dialogue.

Yet, in spite of this progress, violence plagues our world, often aided by advances in technology unleashing ever greater horror on innocent populations. All too rarely until now have we stopped to consider the violence that continues to be done to the Earth itself.

What can we – the vast community of people of faith sharing this planet – do to shift the direction of human development at this crucial point in time when we are at risk of destroying not only one another but also the very systems that give us life?

The time has come to act as one. Does it matter whether we believe we are praying to the same God with different names or not? Does it matter whether we pray to one God, or many gods, or no god at all? What matters is that we believe we can tap into a greater Force than ourselves to achieve a goal that none of us can reach alone.

Let us begin with a deep knowing that the thoughts and prayers we send to those affected by a tragedy are joining with the thoughts and prayers of many others, creating a powerful wave of love in a specific direction, like a great beam of light piercing the darkness. Let us share this outpouring with a generosity of spirit that will make it all the more effective. As we begin to share our thoughts and prayers, we can also begin to share peacebuilding methods from our religious and faith communities. We can practice these skills in our schools, town halls and community centers.

Why wait for disaster to strike? We can align during special times designated by the United Nations, including the International Day of Peace on September 21 and World Interfaith Harmony Week, February 1-7.

At the heart of the International Day of Peace is a 12 noon Minute of Silence for world peace. We are invited to offer a simple intention or prayer for peace every day at 12 noon – so that by the time we get to World Interfaith Harmony Week we will know that interfaith harmony is no longer a dream but an expression of goodwill: love in action on a daily basis.

We are entering a significant time between September 21st and December 21st when a broad coalition of organizations are calling for a Push4Peace to gather pledges for one billion acts of peace. Now is the time to blanket the planet with our thoughts, prayers and actions! Will the end of the Mayan calendar spell the end of a civilization doomed to destroy itself, or will it usher in a new era of peace and prosperity for all humankind? What if it is up to us?

Let us Pray4Peace in our homes, schools, communities, towns, and nations. Let us allow our hearts to tell our hands what to do. Together, let us build a new culture of peace. May Peace Prevail on Earth.