World Sunday for Peace was this past Sunday, May 22. Did your church observe it? Neither did mine. But it wouldn’t have been a bad idea.
The World Sunday for Peace was part of the World Council of Churches' International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) which ends today, May 25, in Kingston, Jamaica. The IEPC marks the culmination of the WCC’s “Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation.”
Among other places, about a month ago the World Sunday for Peace was announced on “Swords into Plowshares,” the blog of the Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations of the General Assembly Mission Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
As is found on numerous other websites the Presbyterian blog gives this prayer that congregations, communities, and individuals were encouraged to use on the World Sunday for Peace. The first part of that prayer goes like this:
God of peace and possibility, Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier: We approach you to ask once again for your mercy, forgiveness and a fresh start. We ask you to help us give peace a chance, in this world. We want to give peace a chance, yet we have already missed so many opportunities. We have sabotaged so many initiatives; instead of overcoming evil with good, we have stood by while good was overpowered. Forgive us, Lord. Dona nobis pacem: Give us peace, we pray.
The words “swords into plowshares” come from the Old Testament, as most of you know well. They are found both in Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3.
You also likely know about the “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares” statue on the east side of the U.N. Headquarters in New York City. That remarkable sculpture was done in 1957 by Evgeniy Vuchetich (1908-74), a Soviet sculptor.
Just recently I saw another remarkable work of art portraying the same idea. This is the “Plowshare Sculpture” done by Arlie J. Regier (b. 1931) and presented to Clay County (MO) in 1990. Even though I have lived in Liberty for several years now, I just happened to see this sculpture (pictured below) for the first time last month, and was quite impressed by it.
Of course, modern battles are not fought with spears, and not many people now even know what a plowshare is. Still the message should be clear to all: weapons of war badly need to be converted into purveyors of peace. That was what lay behind the slogan “atoms for peace,” and it was not a bad idea. But it is a very difficult idea to implement, as the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, so sadly remind us.
There are a number of peace activist groups who use plowshares (or ploughshares) in their name. One such group is “Project Ploughshares,” which was established in 1976 as an agency of The Canadian Council of Churches “to give practical expression to the fulfilment of God’s call to bear witness to peace, reconciliation, and non-violence and to contribute to the building of a national and international order that will serve the goals of peace with justice, freedom, and security for all.”
That sounds like a good “mandate” to me, and I pray that it increasingly becomes the conscious goal of each of us as individuals, of our communities of faith, and even of the countries in which we life.