In the Bible, Jeremiah 29: 7 gives a clear mandate to the Israelite exiles in Babylon to seek and pursue the peace of the city they were held in. They are told to pray to the Lord for it with a promise that in the peace of that city they too would experience peace.
In 2000, Church leaders in partnership with the police hosted series of events to respond to the challenge of gun and knife crime in the borough of Haringey. This unprecedented relationship led to the birth of The Peace Alliance in 2001, a crime reduction charity working in partnership with the faith, voluntary, community, business and statutory sectors.
I have been personally impacted by the pain, grief and despair of the families who have experienced the ultimate outcome of violent crime, the death of a loved one. In Christian faith one is often called upon to dedicate babies, baptise and marry members. But the one task I have dreaded most has been to be part of the funeral service of a child whose death had been at the hands of another.
My response thereafter has been that I owed it to young people and their families to do everything I could to give them opportunities to dream, hope and hopefully keep them alive. The launch of the Haringey Week of Peace (now called the London Week of Peace, held annually across the capital in September), along with projects such as ‘Untouchable?’ (an educational DVD on gun crime); ‘What’s the Point’ (a comic educational resource on knife crime); Inside Out (a training programme working with young people and ex-offenders) are examples of our responses to combat crime in the community. Jesus is recorded in the Gospels as coming to the city of Jerusalem and weeping over it saying if only they knew what made peace possible but it had been hidden from them. I have often wondered about this and although not related, yet relevant, an acronym for peace has come to form the ethos of the Peace Alliance. P – Parenting that is proper. E – Education that is effective; A – Achievements celebrated; C – Communities mobilised into action and E – Enterprise that is sustainable.
As Dr Martin Luther King said: “Peace is not the absence of violence but rather the presence of justice.”
Faith must go beyond the fight against violence but must seek to fight for the cause of disaffected and disadvantaged members of our community. We must ultimately seek to ensure peace is first personal before it can be the experience of any local community. A peace pilgrim quote says, ‘When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.’ This must become our ultimate goal as stated in Micah 6 verse 8 ‘O people the Lord has told you what is good and what he requires of you: to do what is right , to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’