It is a difficult spiritual challenge to address the issue of war and peace. Much has been said; more will follow. There are great arguments on both sides. Some say peace means one may not fight even to defend. Some say that freedom will always have a cost of using force for defense. What follows is another way of looking at the issue.
‘Peace is not the absence of war; peace is the presence of God.’ When we speak of peace, we speak of peace within the human spirit. When there is peace within the human spirit, it manifests into loving action. Therefore, all the great religions advocate some form of spiritual practice that guides the follower into the inner sanctum of the soul when there exists the spirit of peace. Western religions pray for peace. They advocate prayer for all the ill and troubled. They seek to place action on top of this practice. And it is essential that all action follow practice.
Eastern religions advocate meditation as the way to receive peace. Long periods of silence allow the participant seeker to reach this inner sanctum which is experienced as being “filled”, and as a deep sense of peace. Both West and East advocate that the seeker listen internally for guidance regardless of the source they attribute to that guidance. Each has its own teachers who are highly evolved, and the highly evolved or incarnated one provides leadership and guidance. This is the desired state. It becomes misguided when the seeker confuses his own motives and fears for inner guidance. Thus all religions advocate a cleansing process in some form that attempts to rid the seeker of his own ego-needs. Thus, the marriage of East and West, in terms of the desire for peace, is reconciled.
There are those who pretend to seek peace while practicing the most despicable acts. An example of this is what occurred in America on September 11, 2001. By terrorists hiding behind a cloak of religion, many people are confused by what they see. Are the ones who brought this pain and anguish saviors, or perpetrators? One needs only to look at their acts. One cannot teach peace and practice terrorism. One either seeks to join all through the energy of Love, or one seeks to disrupt and destroy through the path of fear. One cannot do both.
Thus the United States, comprising many religions of both Western and Eastern faiths, has faced the dilemma of what to do. There is criticism by some that the U. S. is now the aggressor. But, what can America do to ensure the safety of all within the country while preventing those who are in weaker positions from being preyed upon by those who would seek to kill and maim? Thus, peace-seeking religions are challenged to resolve the inconsistencies spiritually brought about by the forces of peace and the forces of destruction.
There is a bigger picture that must be observed. That bigger picture involves the need for the human spirit, regardless of religion, race, or geographic location, for freedom in order to be able to evolve spiritually, and express its contribution to the world. Oppression denies the spirit this opportunity, and must be avoided at any cost. What does that mean? It means that sometimes, in order to preserve the freedom essential to grow spiritually and express one’s special talents in service to humankind, one must resist oppression. How does one resist oppression? Not by pretending that if one does not resist, it will go away quietly. It never does. History is full of examples of the ego-needs of some overpowering and oppressing others. It has happened in every country, and in every era. Yet, over the course of time, freedom has evolved. Expressed politically as a democracy, it is beginning to be realized around the globe. Yet, there will continue to be many challenges to its evolution. Why? Because the ego-fear needs of some will always be threatened, and will be evoked to evil action. This is what has recently occurred in America.
Therefore, it is essential to resist this effort at destruction of freedom for a return to oppression. It is the struggle of good and evil, of Love and fear. Love has been characterized as being stronger than fear, but that is only if the receiver is an expression of that love. This is not to provide an argument for “holy war”. There is no place for the actions of oppression of one religious group over others. It is, however, an argument for defense of freedom. Without freedom, the spirit cannot grow and express. Dreams are lost. Anger and pain ensue. Without freedom, some become slaves of the philosophies of others. Some are valued, and others devalued. Even in a democracy, there are subtle power shifts between the oppressed and the oppressor in all our institutions. But in the aggressive action experienced on September 11, this attempt to shift power from freedom to chaos and destruction was vividly witnessed. Should the United States and other countries seek to stop terrorism? Only by stopping terrorism in all its forms can freedom be protected. Only by protecting freedom can the spirit have opportunity to grow and contribute. Only though growth and contribution are the needs of humankind met.
In the prayer of St. Francis, ‘Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, that where there is hatred, I may sow love,’ one finds a role for the spiritual sojourner. It is by sowing love, stopping aggression, and seeking balance of power so that the spirit may thrive, that we become instruments of peace. ‘Peace is not the absence of war; peace is the presence of God (Love.)’ The consciousness of the spiritual sojourner must be one of peace, and of the love for, and protection of, freedom. Many have already died to establish freedom. Many more have died to preserve it. It is costly; it is priceless. It must continue so that future generations may have the same experience of those of us who know freedom, in order for the evolution of the human spirit to continue. Do not be concerned about preserving freedom; be concerned about losing it. The greatest gift we can give our children is the opportunity to experience a ‘ true democracy. . where all are equal, and all are truly free.’
Sue Kidd Shipe