By Sebhat Ayele MCCJ
In Need Of Messengers Of Shalom
One of the most basic needs and rights of the human person is peace. Often, the word peace is mistakenly understood as “an absence of war”. In English, the word “peace” reflects a passive picture, one showing an absence of civil disturbance or hostilities or a personality free from internal and external strife. This is just partial of the intrinsic meaning of peace. Human beings need much more than the absence of external violence or upheaval of daily life. To live in peace, a person needs much more ingredients that satisfy his/her personal, social, psychological and spiritual needs. The biblical concept of peace is much larger and richer. It rests heavily on the Hebrew root “SLM”, which means “to be complete” or “to be sound.” In the sense that the human person is “whole”, lacking nothing: restful, serene, with all the needs provided or achieved. The verb conveys both a dynamic and a static meaning: to be “complete or whole” and “to live well.” On the other hand, the noun of the same word ‘SLM’ has many nuances, but can be grouped into four categories: First, salom as wholeness of life or body (i.e., health).
Second: salom as right relationship or harmony between two parties or people, often established by a covenant (see “covenant of peace” in Num 25:12-13 ; Isa 54:10 ; Ezek 34:25-26) and, when related to Yahweh, the covenant was renewed or maintained with a “peace offering”. Third: salom as prosperity, success or fulfillment (see Lev 26:3-9). Fourth: salom as victory) over one’s enemies or absence of war.
Salom is used, as well, in both greetings and farewells. It means to act as a blessing on the one to whom it was spoken: “May your life be filled with health, prosperity, and victory.” As an adjective, it expressescompleteness and safety. In the New Testament, the Greek word “EIRENE” is the word most often translated by the word “peace.” Although there is some overlapping in their meanings, the Hebrew word salom is broader in its usage and in fact, has greatly influenced the New Testament’s use of “EIRENE”. In brief, the word peace emanates from the Hebrew word salom and bears much larger and all-inclusive meaning of peace.
Origin of Peace
According to the biblical tradition, it is broadly accepted that God is the Source of Peace. For he is “Yahweh Shalom” (see Judges 6:24 ). The Lord came to sinful humankind: historically first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles, desiring to enter into a relationship with them. He established with them a covenant of peace, which was sealed with His presence (see Num 6:24-26). Participants were given perfect peace as long as they maintained a right relationship with the Lord (see Is 26:3; 2 Thes 3:16). This concept is again consolidated by Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I give you peace which the world cannot give”. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (Jn 14:27). Therefore, God is the origin and the giver of Shalom. Unless peace comes from God it is short lived because it lacks divine roots.
Appalling signs of times
As the title of this article articulates, the current situation of the globe is very unhealthy. All the corners of the earth are shrouded with violence, conflicts, refugees and drumming of nuclear war alarms. The tension between the US and North Korea is a threat to humanity. The number of refugees and IDPs is hiking on a daily basis and at the moment, there are no signs of relief. Global warming and desertification is hurting the lives of millions who depend on agriculture and sea food products. Human beings created in the image of God are trafficked like animals and their organs are sold and bought by fellow human beings. This is what is happening in Libya these days while the whole world is looking on helplessly. It seems as if the power of evil has overtaken our world and that is why several sects are taking advantage of predicting the end of the world.
Due to these threatening and unhealthy signs of times, Pope Francis warned of a “piecemeal” World War III. He cautioned that it may have already begun with the current spate of crimes, massacres and destruction. He said this when he visited Italy’s largest military cemetery commemorating the centenary of World War I in 2004. “War is madness,” the Pope said at a memorial to 100,000 Italian soldiers at Redipuglia Cemetery near Slovenia.
Messengers of Peace
As Christians, believers and people of Good Will, we are sons and daughters of the Almighty “Shalom”. It is our duty and mandate to spread peace with all its dimensions. We can’t close our eyes to all the tragic things which are happening around us. As the famous quote goes “Truth hurts, but Silence kills”. We have a natural obligation to move something to ease the madness that is invading our earth. To keep silent does good neither to the victims nor the perpetrators. The Berber proverb says “Silence is the door to consent”. (Berber are the indigenous ethic group in Northern Africa). Our silence may not directly imply consent, but it definitely sends messages of indifference and presumed helplessness.
The CHURCH founded by the mandate of Christ is the first and foremost messenger of Shalom. Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”. Believers can’t claim to be called children of God unless they are messengers of peace. Jesus tells his followers that if salt loses its taste, it has no value (Ref. Mark 9:50). Pope Francis spoke during his general audience in December last year “The message of the Good News entrusted to us is urgent. We must also run like the messenger of the mountains, because the world cannot wait, humanity is hungry and thirsty for justice, for truth and for peace.” Most Church documents like Gaudium et Spes and others speak about the need of cherishing and nurturing peace to humanity.
The Church has the primary mandate to announce Shalom to the ends of the Earth. The Universal Church and the Local Churches are fully aware of this responsibility. Only within the African continent are many Episcopal Conferences and Religious Leaders out spoken in defending and spreading Shalom. However, the silence of some Episcopal Conferences within our continent is sometimes upsetting. Religious
Leaders represent the Vicar of Christ and have the same mandate and commitment to defend and treasure Shalom.
Political Leaders: according to biblical tradition, any kind of authority given is from above. “Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude and lord it over throngs of peoples! Because authority was given you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High” (Wis 6:1-1). This is the biblical truth which can’t be scratched. All the citizens of the earth wish and pray that the political leaders understand this truth: that they are the principal actors of bringing the Shalom of the Almighty because authority was given to them by the Almighty Lord Himself. Pope Francis in a video message sent on the occasion of the Congress, “Meeting of Catholics that Assume Political Responsibility at the Service of the Latin American Peoples,” held December 1-3, 2017, at the headquarters of the Colombian Episcopal Conference, in Bogota said: “politics is, first of all, a service, it is not the slave of individual ambitions, of the arrogance of factions or interest groups”. The event was organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America (CAL) and the Latin American Episcopal Council (CELAM). The Holy Father warned that politics is not “a master that pretends to rule all the dimensions of people’s lives, including falling into forms of autocracy and totalitarianism”.
The population of the African continent is wishing whole heartedly that the same message is given to the African politicians. Africa has many Politicians who never want to relinquish power even when they are old beyond limit, thus politicians who want to be sole masters of their nations, politicians who want to pocket all the resources of the country in their private accounts, etc.
Last but not least, all the believers and people of Good Will have a God-Given mandate to be Messengers of Shalom. We can’t ditch such a noble mandate into the hands of Religious and Political Leaders alone. That would be “sin of omission”. Peace is not a luxurious item that one can do without. Instead it is a fundamental right and need for all human beings.
Therefore, it is both a mandate and an obligation to be Messengers of Shalom. Our faith does not allow us to rescind from this God-Given noble mandate.
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