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Reflections on inter-religious service for peace

Brief reflections on peace at the occasion of the Interreligious Service for Peace, 21, January 2013 at the Ecumenical Centre. by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary

22 January 2013

Brief reflections on peace at the occasion of the Inter-religious Service for Peace
21, January 2013 at the Ecumenical Centre

Your Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

Welcoming all of you here at the Ecumenical Centre, let me greet you by saying:

Peace be with you! Amani na iwe nanyi! Shalom Aleichem! Salam Aleikum! Fred waere med dig!

I believe that we can find in all languages an expression for peace and the mutual respect for the dignity of the other it entails. In God, we are one human family, as Pope Benedict XVI underlines in his message for the World Day of Peace. This implies that the aspirations for peace, dignity and justice for all and not just for a few members of our human family become our common challenge and task.

The member churches of the World Council of Churches are preparing this year for the tenth assembly of the WCC. We have made a prayer our common theme: “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”. Praying together, we remind each other that God’s gift of life is given to all of creation and that justice and peace are God’s will for everyone. In the pursuit of peace and justice, we are being led - precisely because of our faith in the God of life - beyond our own faith community into partnership with all people of good will.

We ask ourselves: how do we receive God’s gift of life, guard it, and care for it, pursuing justice and peace?

During these weeks after Christmas, I was reminded of the story of Joseph of Nazareth and the way he cared for the newborn child and his mother. He does not follow his own wishes or ideas. He is in extraordinary ways attentive to the will of God. He is sensitive enough to receive the messages of God’s angel, showing him the way. And so he takes care of Mary, protects the lives of mother and son, takes refuge with them in Egypt, and returns to Israel after Herod’s death.

Joseph, the carpenter, leads us into the midst of daily struggles for life in the context of war, violence and corruption, but with the spiritual strength to care for the lives entrusted to him. Joseph is searching for what is right and the will of God, even when it is against his understanding and interests. Sometimes, it may also be against his wishes; but, he never seems to back away from a challenge, however great. Joseph accepts the call to be led into an unknown future, believing that God provides for obedient people even under such circumstances.

Joseph is a human being carrying heavy burdens in order to help, to save others, and to be with those in need when they need him. He is the lesser known of Jesus’ parents; but, Joseph, is a person without whom it would be difficult for anyone else to manage -- not even the son of God.

Thanks be to God, there are many Josephs in this world, who accept to be led the way towards justice and peace in an unpretentious way and accept to be seen as less extraordinary than others. There are many Josephs who in a mature way look beyond themselves, not being preoccupied by themselves, but serving in response to the call of the God of life, holding high the standards of justice and peace in their lives and opening doors so that others may fulfil their callings and experience the freedom of justice and peace, never shying away from the challenges encountered on their way.

Pope Benedict in his message for the World Day of Peace addresses key challenges of our times. I appreciate very much the call for a new model of development and economics based on a strong commitment for social rights and duties, solidarity and the right to work. Such change is necessary now and people of faith are well placed to call for it! Reflecting on our assembly theme, the WCC Central Committee has proposed to turn our prayer into action and to embark on a pilgrimage for justice and peace that will address the financial crisis, grave social inequality and climate change also as threats to peace.

I am also convinced that education for peace and the pedagogy for peacemakers are essential for building a culture of peace as underlined in the message. We need people who are ready and free to act with”compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance”.

We need more people like Joseph, who care for life and its future. For them and with them let us pray: God of life, lead us to justice and peace! Amen.

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary