Albert Einstein once said, “Peace is not merely the absence of war.” Yet, amid rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea, and at other times, we often hear Washington politicians say the threat of military action is the assurance of peace. Recently, I came across a couple of community members who see things differently – Amy Cantrell, from BeLoved Asheville, and Rachael Bliss, co-founder of WNC 4 Peace.
Amy was one of three women honored with the 2017 Peace Maker of the Year award from WNC 4 Peace. The other honorees were Anne Craig, coordinator of the local Palestinian/Jewish Egalitarian Team, and Heather Heyer, who lost her life during the Charlottesville demonstrations in August.
The three women were honored during the week leading up to the International Day of Peace (Peace Day) on Sept. 21. It was a week when WNC 4 Peace and other groups sought to remind us of how important peace is if humanity is to survive.
Instituted by the U.N. General Assembly in 1981, Peace Day is a day “devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.” Yet there are many places in the world where peace is a dream, where war still rages. I ask myself often: Why can’t we, humanity, get past this mindset for war?
I had the opportunity to speak with Amy and Rachael about this and about why we have no lasting peace. Surely, the availability of arms is a contributing factor. As Rachael said, we have to be aware of what President Eisenhower called “the military-industrial complex” and the role it plays in the psyche of our country. But the absence of peace is more than turning off the weapons of war.
In our conversation, Rachael said that peace is about justice, “justice in all its facets — economic, environmental and social.” And in her acceptance speech for the Peace Maker award, Amy also said, “We will never have peace without justice” and adding later, “Our work as peacemakers is to begin to say, ‘How do we create justice, which is peace?’”
British author Benjamin Crème said that it is only through a sharing of the world’s resources that we will create this justice. And it is only through justice that we will create a lasting peace. This, he said, is the only viable way forward, because it is only through sharing that all people everywhere will have the opportunity to have a life without hunger and poverty, without want, without injustice. How would this lead to peace?
Crème says that when countries learn to share, trust emerges between them, even between countries who are adversaries. When there is trust, new and better relationships can develop. The groundwork is then laid toward solving the world’s most intractable problems.
Peace = justice = sharing. It’s a new concept. It’s a new way of living. We’ve never tried it before. But as Amy Cantrell asked me, “If we truly believe in peace and not war … what are we willing to risk to bring that about in the world?
— McNair Ezzard
Editor’s note: McNair Ezzard hosts “A Better World” on WPVM 103.7.