At a time when so many are congratulating themselves on making the world a more peaceful place by killing Osama bin Laden, it is worth asking what really leads to peace.

In the movie “Of Gods and Men,” following the invasion of their monastery on Christmas Eve, Brother Christian reflects with his brothers on what he believes might truly bring peace to the world. Brother Christian says,

I’ve often thought of that time. That time when Sayah Attia and his men left.
Once they were gone, all we had left to do was to live.
And the first thing we did was… two hours later.
We celebrated the Christmas Vigil and Mass.

It’s what we had to do. It’s what we did.
And we sang the Mass. We welcomed that Child
who was born for us absolutely helpless and…
and already so threatened.

Afterwards, we found salvation in undertaking our daily tasks.
The kitchen, the garden, the prayers, the bells.
Day after day.
We had to resist the violence.
And day after day, I…. I think each of us discovered
that to which Jesus Christ beckons us.
It’s … to be born.
Our identities as men go from one birth to another.
And from birth to birth, we’ll each end up
bringing to the world the child of God that we are.

The Incarnation, for us, is to allow the filial reality of Jesus
to embody itself in our humanity.
The mystery of Incarnation remains what we are going to live.
In this way what we’ve already lived here
takes root as well as…
what we’re going to live in the future.

Peace comes to those who welcome “that Child who was born for us absolutely helpless.” We create peace when we open our hearts to the weak and the broken.

We will never find lasting peace by the violent assertion of our will, even our just will, over the other.

In the “Testament” he wrote three years before he was assassinated, Brother Christian imagined his death saying,

I have lived long enough to know my complicity in the evil that seems, alas, to prevail over the world, even in the evil which might blindly strike me down.

It is only when we are willing to recognize our shared guilt for the violence of the world that peace will begin to become a possibility in the world community. We are all connected. We in the west helped create the evil we naively assume we have now destroyed by killing Osama bin Laden.

As Brother Christian says in the film, what we live here “takes root.” And the root of what we live bears fruit that are easily predictable.

The Monks of Tibhirine bore the fruit of peace and mutual respect because they chose to “resist violence,” not by using violent means but by finding “salvation in undertaking our daily tasks. Day after day.”

All actions bring an identifiable energy transmission into the world.

Our identities as men go from one birth to another.
And from birth to birth, we’ll each end up
bringing to the world the child of God that we are.

Our choices bring either life or death. Each small violence we choose clears the way for a larger violence down the road. There will be no lasting peace anywhere in the world, until we reclaim peace within ourselves and reject the violence of hatred and anger even against those who have done us harm.

When we scream and rail against the Osama bin Laden’s of this world as if they were the sole cause of all that is wrong in the human community, we are perpetuating the mad cycle of violence that gave rise to bin Laden’s heinous acts of terror. Peace will only come as we choose to live in peace, laying down our power and arming ourselves with the weakness and vulnerability of Christ.

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There is a quote that has been doing the rounds on facebook attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. that points the way towards peace. Curiously, the quote does not actually seem to have been written by MLK. Someone made it up and attributed it to him. But whatever its origin it still carries great wisdom.

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

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