“All things desire peace,” St. Augustine tells us. St. Thomas adds, and “We desire to obtain what we desire.” As human beings, as citizens of a nation and of the world, as Christians we are committed to work for peace – for inner and social peace! And yet, we look at our world and see wars, violence, division, injustice, and oppression.

          On this occasion, we wish to reflect – in four columns – on peace from the teachings of the Holy Scripture, Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas, and more specifically, from the social doctrine of the Church.

Hereafter, we consider the meaning of peace (1), its kinds and four columns (2), its main obstacle, wars (3), and the medicine against violence and wars: nonviolent love (4).

We begin our peaceful journey with the question, what is peace?

              MEANING OF PEACE (# 1)

In human perspective, peace is one of the deepest longings of humankind. It stands for order, happiness, love, harmony.

Peace is harmony. In Asian cultures and religions, harmony means harmony in plurality. It is described as wellbeing, right order, justice and love in human relationships. It is focused on right interpersonal relationships.

For the Christian, God is the God of Peace (I Thess 5:23). In Novo Millennio Ineunte, John Paul II hoped that God become more who He is, that is, a name of peace and a summons to peace (NMI, 55).

 Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace (Is 9:6), our peace (Eph 2:14). He enters our world bringing peace on earth (Lk 2:14). His usual greeting to his disciples is “Peace be with you” (Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19-21). He is the preacher of the Gospel of peace (Eph 6:15). He proclaims the Kingdom of God, which means “righteousness and peace and joy” (Rom 14:17).  Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ is the Peacemaker: through the shedding of his blood, He reconciles the human person with God, humans to humans (Eph 2:14-17), and the whole universe to himself (Col 1:20). Before going up to heaven, Jesus tells his disciples: “Peace I bequeath to you, my peace I give you, this is my gift to you” (Jn 14:27).

With the Father, Jesus the Risen Lord sends to us the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Peace.Peace is one of the great gifts of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22). It is a gift of God that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7), a gift to the just, who walk by the way of peace (Lk 1:79), “to everyone who does good” (Rom 2:10). Contrarily, “For the wicked, there is no peace” (Is 48:22 and 57:21). Indeed, “happy are the gentle” (Mt 5:4), “happy are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9). Being in peace, making peace, God’s children walk towards perfect peace at the end of time when there will be no more tears, “no more death, and no mourning and crying and pain” (Rev 21:4).

Augustine says that peace is tranquility of order, tranquility of personal and social order, which does not mean, on one hand, the calmness of death – of the cemetery – and, on the other hand, the social order in our secular societies, in our selfish world. For St. Thomas Aquinas, peace is – with mercy and joy – an effect of charity or God’s love in us. Pope Paul VI adds: “Human order is an act, rather than a state; hence, peace “lies in a progressive motion” (Message, January 1, 1970). Peace is dynamic “Peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, GS 78).

Peace is founded on the respect for the dignity of the human person. The human person possesses a unique human dignity, which implies perfection, plenitude, and value. Human dignity, fundamental dignity is equal in all human beings. Thus, one may behave cruelly and criminally and thus loose his/her moral dignity, but not his basic human dignity. Every human being – born or unborn, young or old, man or woman, black or white, Catholic or Muslim, Filipino or Spaniard -, every human being is equal to all other human persons. Therefore, every human being should not be treated as an object but as a subject, not as a means but as an end, neither as an it, but as he or she (relationship of justice)or, better, as thou(relationship of love).

In this context, two basic principles: All human beings are equal in dignity, and all States are by nature equal in dignity (John XXIII Pacem in Terris, 86, 89). Human dignity is expressed in human rights. “After all, peace comes down to respect for man’s inviolable rights” (John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis, 17), starting with the right to life, which is an indivisible and inalienable fundamental human right. The high point of the magisterium on human life is found in the pace-setting encyclical of John Paul II Evangelium Vitae, or The Gospel of Life, where we are repeatedly told that there “cannot be true peace unless life is defended and promoted” (EV  101).

In his last Message for the World Day of Peace (January 1, 2013), Benedict XVI writes that the defense of human life from the moment of conception to natural death belongs to the integral nature of peace: “The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all the respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception through its development and up to its natural end.” The German Pope mentions also, with the right to life, the right to religious freedom, including conscientious objection, and the right to work. He underlines, moreover, that peace is principally “the attainment of the common good in society at its different levels, primary and intermediary, national, international and global.”

True peace – personal as well as social – is the ever-ripening fruit of the practice of justice, love: the witnessing of all virtues,which are interconnected: “I loved the peace that virtue brings and hated the discord caused by corruption and falsehood” (St. Augustine, Confessions).