Peace is the theme for Advent this week.
When I was studying at the University of Waterloo, the neighbouring college — Conrad Grebel College — offered a Peace and Conflict Studies program. The courses always appealed to me, but I only took one during my time there. I recall walking down the hall past a lecture and hearing, “Peace is more than the absence of conflict.” I wish I’d staying longer to hear a more complete definition of peace. Part of me wishes I had pursued a minor or certificate in peace and conflict studies in parallel to my engineering degree because the greatest challenges our world now faces may have little to do with engineering and everything to do with peace and conflict.
Some definitions of peace include quiet and tranquility. That resonates for me. But I can also imagine peace that is loud about boisterous: I’d venture to say our cities are, by and large, peaceful places — notwithstanding violent crime and domestic violence that we should eradicate. Crime rates fall, but hustle and bustle rises. Indeed, some of the most dangerous places on earth are actually quite quiet and tranquil: they have curfews imposed at nightfall, which is around 6pm in equatorial regions. Quiet and tranquil sometimes imply discord and violence.
We have a relative peace in Castlegar, where many feel safe to walk the streets at any hour. And yet many experience this otherwise quiet and tranquil place as violent and unsafe. Gender-based violence still exists. Bullying still exists. Child abuse still happens.
As we anticipate the coming Messiah — the Anointed One — we remember that the appearance of peace does necessarily not mean deep peace. But we remember the promise awaiting fulfilment. We hold steadfast to a vision of a peaceful world — where we can life free from fear, where the will to commit violence has melted away, where conflict is transformed to create space for new life. We have much work to do and by God’s active grace we can work together to make peace reality for all.