On September 21, the United Nations will recognize The International Day of Peace, a day for “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples” by observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. Each year, the day is given a theme that reflects current issues; the 2022 theme is End Racism. Build Peace.
As described by the United Nations, “achieving true peace entails much more than laying down arms. It requires the building of societies where all members feel that they can flourish. It involves creating a world in which people are treated equally, regardless of their race.”
This embodies the scripture’s message of “love your neighbor as yourself”, full stop. Jesus didn’t offer this guidance with conditions – to love your neighbor only if they look like you, talk like you, live like you. As Pastor Chrissy pointed out in her September 4th sermon, loving your neighbor can be difficult especially when so much strives to differentiate us:
“Our brains are hard-wired to love those who look like us, talk like us, live like us, and love like us. We understand their stories and can easily summon the compassion and empathy needed to enter into a relationship with them. People who are like us are more than their stereotypes because we know their complexities as intimately as we know our own. But when our love is contained to these small circles of knowing, we can too easily justify exclusion, dehumanization, and even violence against human beings we see as “other”.”
So on this International Day of Peace: End Racism. Build Peace, we must remember the core of God’s message is to love all people, regardless of race, nationality, and beliefs, and to always strive for peace, love, and justice for all people. We can reach beyond our small circle of knowing and transition to listening, learning, having courageous conversations, and opening ourselves to growing together.