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We were called to make peace

By Kenya Smith

Matthew 5:1-12 is a remarkably familiar passage of scripture that many know as the Beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount. In this passage, Jesus gives a sermon about the kind of qualities that God will bless. One verse that caught my attention was verse 9, where Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” Peace means “freedom from disturbance” or “a state in which there is no war or fighting.” Let’s look at what it means to be a peacemaker.

Many people mistake peacemaking with peacekeeping, but these two words have entirely different meanings. Peacemaking is simply “the process of bringing about peace, especially by reconciling adversaries.” With peacemaking, there is a desire to seek long-term sustainable solutions. Peacemaking does not mean having polite agreements or fragile truces to difficult issues. It also does not mean to avoid conflict or to hold back honest emotions, thoughts and opinions, especially when it comes to injustices. When we avoid conflict and tough conversations, we are practicing peacekeeping. For true peace to be kept, it must first be made. How can you keep something that has not yet existed? That is why you hear protesters cry out the usual phrase, “No justice, no peace!”

A good example of peacemaking is the Civil Rights Movement. In a time where it was made clear on signs, windows and in law that African Americans were not welcomed in American society, activists decided to step up and speak out against racial discrimination in various areas of life such as education, public transportation, housing, voting and employment. While activists like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. engaged in nonviolent demonstrations, a lot of people still saw the activists and their demonstrations as a threat to their comfortable ways of living. Does this remind you of today? Even eight Alabama clergymen wrote an op-ed that criticized Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. They considered the demonstrations as “unwise” and “untimely” and insisted that they be delayed. This is an example of peacekeeping.

America faces some challenging days ahead due to the trend of calling 911 on black individuals such as Christian Cooper and the senseless murders of black individuals by law enforcement and strangers such as George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. We are seeing a surge of demonstrations demanding that society would dismantle the centuries-long practice of systemic racism in various arenas of life, especially in the arena of law and order. Due to 400 years of slavery, Jim Crow and subtle, systemic racism, our black communities are saying that enough is enough. We can no longer tolerate racial injustices in 2020 and from here on. Now is the time to make true peace instead of keeping fake peace. Please keep this ball for justice and equality rolling. Continue to speak out against various forms of racism. Continue to march and protest, because when Black lives matter, then all lives will matter. #BlackLivesMatter

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native. Email her at s.kenya43@yahoo.com.