Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 31, 2002
Olive branch offers the balm of peace
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
When people fight, sometimes they have legitimate reasons, but often, it's hard to justify. Some of the worst battles happen not between strangers, but within our own families and among our closest friends.
When people bring these conflicts to priests or other spiritual counsellors, we often stress reconciliation. We make the case for forgiveness and for putting aside past hurts and moving forward in a positive way.
Yet that advice isn't offered on an exactly even basis. In other words, you may be mostly right and others may be mostly wrong - but that's not the point. Reconciliation will never happen if we wait for everything to be completely fair. The purpose of peacemaking is to see beyond who's right or wrong to the virtue of forgiving the past and walking together into a more loving future.
For most of us, starting out is the toughest part. Making the first call to that someone with whom we're angry can be very tough. All our defences rear their troublesome heads. We have our pride, and we're afraid of looking weak. We're concerned that the person on the other side won't respond in kind.
We think that maybe it's better to leave bad enough alone. We think, "Why do I have to make the first gesture?" All those feelings can leave us unwilling to be vulnerable enough to put aside the fear of embarrassment and just do it.
Yes, there are risks. We might be rejected. We might renew the argument. We might feel like nothing was accomplished. But we can at least know that we tried to be peacemakers - tried, in our own small way, to make the world just a little less hostile, a little more fully a place where people can live in peace.
This topic often makes me think of someone that none of us should forget. His name was Anwar Sadat. He served as the president of Egypt. For most of his adult life, he voiced the distrust and dislike for Israel that was common in Arab circles.
But after years of hatred, war and bloodshed, after too many people were left widows and orphans, he decided he had to do something. In a bold move, he announced that he would go to Jerusalem in search of peace with his enemies.
And so he did. It was an amazing historic visit that caused walls of misunderstanding to fall. It gave a world set in the ways of animosity and revenge a hint of hope. It was the right thing to do. And it cost him.
Some radical fundamentalists saw Sadat's action as betrayal. Peace to them meant unwelcome compromise. And so the forces of hate moved against him and this instrument of peace was assassinated.
Anwar Sadat died in 1981. But he had given his life for reconciliation and today remains a beacon of hope - someone who dared to make the first move so others might live in peace. Few recall the people who stilled his brave voice, but history will long remember the man who welcomed the possibility of peace.
You and I will probably never effect change on such an international stage. But in workplaces and schools, at home and in our neighbourhood, we, too, have opportunities and choices.
We can stay locked in combat or not. We can leave the situation status quo or we can pick up the phone, pick up the pen, knock on the door and say that we want to try again. We can want peace more than we want to have our own way or nothing. We need to know that, at the very least, we tried to make a difference for the better.
Who in your life needs you to take the first step for peace and reconciliation?
There's no time like the present and there's no one who can make it happen just the way you can.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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