For the past month St Godwald’s Church has been hosting the annual exhibition of art work created by pupils of years 7 and 8 from Aston Field’s Middle School. The theme this year is ‘Peace’. The young people have produced pictures, models and reflections inspired by individuals and groups who have worked for peace and demonstrated peace in our world.
For Christians Jesus is the ultimate peace giver and peacemaker. He lived his life and he gave his life to make peace and to show us the way to peace. Even though Jesus is not mentioned by name in the exhibition, so many of those featured were inspired by his example and empowered by God’s Spirit in their peacemaking. The power of the Spirit of the God of Peace breathes through all the young people’s work.
A person who inspired many pupils is Malala Yousafzai in her advocacy of education for women in Pakistan, shot and wounded by the Taliban because of her campaign, and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Other inspirational people included Dr Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela transforming relationships between people of different colour and race, and Mother Theresa working to alleviate the suffering of the poorest people in Calcutta. Organisations featured are ‘Greenpeace’ who campaign for a right relationship between humans and all creation and ‘Amnesty International’ highlighting the abuses suffered unjustly by those who strive for peace and justice.
One picture in the exhibition is of no man's land during the First World War on Christmas day 1914. British and German soldiers stopped fighting. They met and exchanged gifts, took photographs and some played football. A moment of peace in the middle of war, a demonstration that deep in all our hearts is a longing for peace, a desire to be at one with our fellow human beings, sharing our experiences and our hopes and fears. As I have spent time in this exhibition I’ve reflected on our human longing for peace and our appreciation of peacemakers.
Peace is a gift of God but it is also a fruit. Sometimes it comes to us, surrounds us and holds us unexpectedly, unbidden, overwhelmingly gracious. But mostly peace has to be worked for, cultivated and nurtured. It requires effort and commitment. Peacemaking is often costly.
We constantly see and encounter situations in our world, in our communities and in our own families and social circles where people are not at peace with each other. We look at ourselves and at our own restlessness and dissatisfaction and our longings for life to be more than it is, and we recognise that we’re not at even peace with ourselves.
We don’t have to live like this. We can be at peace in ourselves. We can be peacemakers in our families and communities. We may never make the news headlines for our peacemaking but we can make a significant difference to the lives of those we live amongst and perhaps inspire others to make peace. It is costly work. It requires us to own up to our part in disagreements and conflicts and to say ‘sorry’. Peacemaking has to challenge all the things that destroy peace – greed, injustice and carelessness, and this challenge may make those who want power and control very angry. Real peace isn’t achieved by hushing things up; covering over the disagreements and injustices. Jesus wasn’t scared of disturbing the complacency of those who made life miserable for others.
Let’s pray - ‘Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me’.