The Pope in his Peace Day message called peace a gift from God. Christopher Rails argued that it is necessary to work actively to gain it.
AS PEACE Sunday approaches I find myself noting a sense of urgency in the Pope's new year peace message. The need for peace is ever more urgent, says the Pope John Paul, because of the nature of modern warfare. Conflicts, he says, are worldwide, so that even local conflict can have far-reaching effects.
"Another characteristic is totality" says the Pope. "Present day tensions mobilise all the forces of the nations involved."
By contrast, peace has its foundations in God, because he is the first source of being, the essential truth and the supreme good. It is his gift; hence the letter's title: "Peace, a Gift from God".
If we see this gift in terms of the parable of the talents, it would be inadvisable to go off and bury it. So what should we do with it?
The Pope, recollecting that we are celebrating the eighth centenary of St Francis' of Assisi's birth, paraphrases the saint's words: "Lord, make us instruments of your peace; where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; when discord rages, let us build peace".
I am struck by the words "instruments" and "build", We all have parts to play in peace initiatives, Likewise, Jesus said "Blessed are the peacemakers-: not the observers or approvers ofothers doing ,the peacemaking.
It may seem a little impertiment for a journalist to be making these remarks.
If ever there was a profession which thrives on negative crisis, especially violence, it is that of the newsmakers.
Bad news is good news to the journalist. This point struck me forcibly in 1980, when on a visit to my home city of Bristol. It w Easter and immediately after the St Paul's riot.
I conducted a couple of interviews with local clergy, and walked round the riot area. On ever corner lurked a camera crew, a news team, waiting like vultures, it seemed, for something to happen which they could "get in the can" to find its way onto that night's television news programmes.
Suddenly. I realised that I too, in my own way, was a ghoulish spectator. I had similar feelings again last year, when I happened (again by chance!) to be in Liverpool the week after the Toxteth riots.
On that occasion I interviewed Fr Austin Smith, the Passionist priest %■ho has worked quietly for
■ ears as a peacemaker, to try and eradicate the very conditions which helped to cause the riots.
• Fr Austin, I suspected, regarded me with slight suspicion as another of "them": the journalist-outsider from London who had conic to get a news story "in the bag" for the next issue, before turning to the next job.
I may be doing him .an injustice: if my hunch is right, I can hardly blame hint I soon realised that Fr Austin had something very profound to say. lie spoke of the underlying violence in the make-up of the urban society that was Liverpool. built on the profits of the slavetraders.
He, of all people, was perhaps lest surprised when the end result was a visible manifestation of the violence that had • really been there for some two hundred years.
But he made another point. which I have not forgotten: There ■■ as something hypocritical. he remarked in the way the (i.)% ernment castitzated the kids of Toxteth for throwing, brickbats, when it set them an example by threatenidng other nations with nuclear missiles.
tt \\ 01.1d \\ here the arms trade k big business. the peacemaker is indeed up against appalling odds, and the least I can do to counteract the general news value of doom and despondency perpetrated by journalism is to point to the tact that millions of people really are doing something, however small, to work for world peace.
"Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do-only a little said Edmund Burke.
The quotation appears in a recent publication on the arms race: ''Ax Lamb's to the Slaughter.'' which I have reviewed On pane six. The chapter entitled "hat you can do" is full of helpful suggestions.
"The. inevitable response" say the authors "is a feeling of impotence. 'What difference can I make?' is a common reaction.
But it goes without saying that mo ements for change can be effective by virtue of the sum total of many individual actions".
And the book ends bv saying: "Whilst the governments of East and West are drifting further apart there is unmistakable and growing evidence that people Within these countries arereacting against the 'threat of destruction.
"Until recently we would have had few grounds for any optimism. Yet times are changing, people are becoming aware of the problems and are starting to take action".
So, when the Pope, in his new year message, says: "It is the survival of the whole human race that is at stake . . . given the destructive capacity of presentday nuclear sockpiles" we can be sure that his words are being heeded.