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Finding the Roots of Peace

These are hard times, and though we are not subject to the violence of overt warfare in our little valley, a different kind of war is happening here. In Syria, Yemen, Palestine and so many other parts of the world, men, women, and children are being thrust into poverty, physically and emotionally maimed, and killed due to war. Here, also, we are being impoverished, wounded and killed, though it looks a little different: car accidents caused by substance abuse or stress, dislocation, and poverty due to domestic violence, prejudice, and economic injustice, and the violent deaths of our beloved children, our promising youths and despairing adults by suicide. How can we transform this war and suffering into peace and prosperity?

I was moved to write about this subject by the story in a recent Valley Journal about the life and death of Jack Pierre. You see, my older brother, Alan, also died of suicide when he was just 20. I was 19. That was many decades ago. It still hurts. I still miss him. Like Jack, he was very bright and passionate though socially inept. He became a loner at school and was mercilessly bullied. Like Jack, he sought some relief in substance abuse, but it did not last. It never does. He, too, received a mental illness “diagnosis” which did not lead to any real help and created prejudice in those around him.

I had to stop reading the article when it came to the memorial service. It reminded me that my brother’s body was quickly buried in an unmarked grave. There was no memorial service. I was overseas at the time, and, being a bit of a loner myself, was left to deal with my grief by myself. When I came home, no one in my family was willing or able to talk about his death or their feelings.

When I finally read the rest of the article about Jack’s beautiful memorial service and learned how his mother is working through her grief and supporting Jack’s siblings in theirs, I felt very encouraged. It’s time to talk about this.

The blessing that came out of my brother’s passing was that my grief propelled me into a journey through all the religions of the world in search of peace and hope. Over the years of this search, I found that there were three sets of truths that are at the core of every religion, teachings that have provided enough peace for humanity to survive and advance for thousands of years. They can help us now.

The first consists of the spiritual realities, which radiate healing light at the very heart of every true religion. We call them virtues, such as truth, mercy, justice, faith and love. When practiced, they illumine our own hearts and promote peace in the world.

The second shared truth is the fundamental guide for our behavior in light of these virtues. In Christianity, this is called the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In Buddhism, it reads “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Judaism counsels, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire law; all the rest is commentary.” Islam reiterates: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” The Baha’i Writings proclaim, “Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.”

How far our civilization has been and still is from this kind of behavior! Is there any hope for peace? Yes, there is! The third truth that is found in all the sacred scriptures of many indigenous spiritual traditions is a promise from our Creator that a time will come when, after unprecedented worldwide suffering and upheaval, a Great Peace will envelop the entire planet. Then, there will be such a flowering of human potential as the world has never seen.

There are many positive signs that we are moving towards this Great Peace. The article about Jack Pierre was one of them. Even though it is truly a grievous loss for all of us when a person chooses death because our society demands that he “fit in” and he cannot, now we are able to talk about it. We are learning to have compassion for others who are different, teaching our children to speak out against bullying and abuse, recognizing the poison of racism, and rising up for the equal rights of every member of the human family.

The United Nations is another hopeful example of this planetary movement towards peace. The UN General Assembly has designated Sept. 21 of each year as International Day of Peace. To celebrate our future of peace, and to explore ways to contribute to peace, the Bahá’is of the Flathead Indian Reservation are sponsoring a community picnic on Sept 22. Please see the calendar section for details.

Recognizing that “a peaceful society is one where there is justice and equality for everyone,” the United Nations Member States adopted the “17 Sustainable Development Goals” in 2015, which is a powerful vision combined with many practical suggestions to help us move forward towards peace for all people. You will find it at www.un.org/en/ events/peaceday/.

Peace begins within each one of us. We can all water the roots of peace in ourselves, our community and the world in our own way each day. Have hope!

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