Monday, February 18, 2013

BookPastor >> "Finding Peace" (Jean Vanier)

TITLE: Finding Peace
AUTHOR: Jean Vanier
PUBLISHER: Toronto, ON: Anansi Press, 2003, (90 pages).

Written after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Jean Vanier takes time to reflect on the nature of human beings, the state of society, and the path forward toward finding peace for mankind. Ironically, just after the US President announced the initiative for building an external shield against external threats, terrorists manipulate missiles in the form of domestic planes to inflict hurt on America. Violence unfortunately begets violence. Hatred breeds hatred. For any aggression, a choice remains: To retaliate, or to seek peace.

In order to assist readers on the road to finding peace, Vanier helps to remove some roadblocks of conflict, fear, barriers that are among us, and within us. He observes the origins of cultural conflicts that seek to dominate others. He laments the sad political conflicts that have split people groups throughout history. He hones in on societal conflict such as rich vs poor, and the strong vs the weak, that is so evident in modern society. There is also the family conflict that happens in our own homes.Then there is the internal conflicts we all experience in varying degrees. Finding peace requires a conscious choice to overcome these conflicts. More importantly, it is possible to let the goodness of finding peace overcome the futility that exists in many places about peacemaking. This needs a change in our mentality and an earnest search and belief that there is a way to peace that transcends cultural, and all kinds of barriers.

Vanier touches on some of the relationship barriers among people. We need to distinguish the importance of people over and beyond the accumulation of things. We must recognize that love in itself is a risk that is worth taking. Forgiveness remains a key that unlocks the most difficult of relationships. In doing so, not only do we experience freedom, we are freed to pursue peace with vigour. Finally, he deals with the internal barriers such as deceptive forms of happiness and temporal peace, and a need to find the source of peace that is outside of our own selves.

Using his L'Arche ministry as an example, Vanier shows readers that it is entirely possible for people to live in peace in spite of differences and weaknesses. He ends his book with a remarkable declaration that peace does not come in the absence of violence and conflicts. Instead, peace comes when people like you and I, seeking constantly to live at peace with others, and with ourselves. I love these words, which I will leave with you.
"Our world is a place of violence and fear, a place where many hide behind walls of individualism, comfort, and security, frightened of looking at reality, unable to discern who they really are. Since September 11, 2001, many are also hiding behind prejudices and fear, stigmatizing those of other cultures. And perhaps in our times the darkness will grow darker, more towers and certitudes will crumble, and stock exchanges will wobble again before more of us truly begin to search for new ways of living, new ways of peace.

The world will not, of course, change overnight. But the gravity of our times, the fear of war, terrorism, and all forms of violence are inciting many men and women to search for a new way of life. Many have seen through the shallowness of material prosperity and are discovering that they can be an active part of peacekeeping.

If you and I seek today to live peace, to be peacemakers, to help create communities of peace, it is not just to seek success. If we find peace, live and work for peace, even if we see no tangible results, we can become fully human beings, walking together on the road of kindness, compassion, and peace. New hope is born." (81-2)

I like this book for its clarity and incisive look at the human condition. It is an honest attempt to help readers find peace in this crazy and violence world. The key to all peace is actually something closer to home. It needs to be cultivated in our hearts first. We need to learn to find security and love. After all, hurt people hurt people. Loved people love people. There is no simpler way to understand peace and love.


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