Last night, or rather early this morning, I wrote a little something for the brand new student newspaper being started at my school. Though I set out to compose a lighthearted inspirational story that would bring a smile to many faces and most importantly, not offend anyone at this multicultural, multi-faith, in some ways anti-faith institution with a definite rough side to it, the following is what came out of my head at 2:00 am. It is much too wordy and slightly argumentative and I don't know how the name Jesus snuck in there when I was really trying to be inoffensive, but I submitted it this morning trusting that God did in some way answer my prayer to give me the right words.
PEACE AND RADICALS
If peace is indeed defined as an absence of war or conflict, then the hope for friendly co-existence between the peoples of this earth seems as far-fetched as it has ever been. When questioned as to the source of this growing climate of dis-ease, many people blame the “radicals” of different belief systems for the degradation of a general sense of security and safety in our world. While there is a grain of truth to this sentiment, it is primarily a misleading generalisation and a misuse of the word “radical.”
“Radical” is first defined by Webster’s dictionary as “of, relating to, or proceeding from a root; of or relating to the origin, fundamental.” A radical in the truest sense is one who embraces a system of belief at its very root and follows these beliefs through to the smallest stems of life. Any belief system that does not hold true at the fringes the same as it holds true at the foundation is a faulty system, and any blame for inconsistent behaviour should not be put on the so-called extremist, but on the inadequate set of values and principles. If a person, however, misrepresents the root values, then the blame for any destructive behaviour rests solely on his or her shoulders and should not detrimentally reflect on the system of belief, for these individuals are not true representatives of any faith but that of their own invention. The discernment to tell the difference between the two appears to be sadly lacking in this day and age. It is much easier to blame radicals and extremists than to take a cold hard look at the fundamental problems in our society that we in fact propagate by our participation.
Tolerance has become a politically correct and desirable attitude to adopt, when in fact it is nothing but passivity which paves the way for the lowest common denominator to pull everyone down to a base level instead of challenging anyone to rise to a higher standard. It is time to stop blaming the radicals for all our problems and instead, develop a set of values whose foundations as well as their outermost limits stand up to the tests of conflict, suffering, and pursuing peace in a pluralistic society over the long haul. True radicals have deeply held convictions that have withstood the test of time, and contrary to resisting change, know how to apply these principles to current situations and new challenges. They are not passive, they are active. They change their environment by example instead of by force. They pursue peace but not at the expense of truth and justice. They are characterised by trustworthiness, faithfulness, love, and compassion. They are transparent in their motivation and do not react defensively to criticism or aggression. The escalating violence in this world is not because there are too many radicals out there, but rather, because there are not enough REAL radicals.
One of the greatest examples of a true peace-maker and radical was Mother Theresa, the recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 1997. She influenced an entire world by believing and acting upon the words of Jesus which urged people to love one another. She said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the presence of trust, and in order to trust, we must first love each other.
“It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.” (Mother Teresa)
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” (from the song by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson)