A Letter from the Rev. Canon Richard Lief: International Day of Peace

In 1981, The United Nations General Assembly declared the third Tuesday of September as International Day of Peace. This day coincided with opening day of annual session of the General Assembly. The purpose of the day was and still remains, to strengthen the ideals of peace around the world.

I believe I was around 10 years old when I started to enjoy reading about the United Nations. I was impressed with the idea that people all around the world could come together and work for peace. As I got older, I also was caught up in the television series about WWII, “Victory at Sea.”

To me, these illustrations speak of our yearning for peace on the one hand, and our having to go to war sometimes to win the peace.  We hope that the tragedy of war will bring peace.

The recent film Oppenheimer illustrates this further. Robert Oppenheimer rejoiced in his development of the atom bomb, and yet had serious doubts about the potential of creating “the end of the world.”

I am a member of the Santa Barbara based international Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which has worked with such luminaries as the Dali Lama and Linus Pauling. The aim of the NAPF is to strive for the elimination of all nuclear weapons.

There will be no winners in nuclear war. Sadly, we read in the news of more countries seeking to develop, and threatening to use, nuclear weapons.  

We live in a broken and fearful world. We have wars and rumors of war, famine, poverty, environmental devastation, people unwilling to talk with one another in families, in communities, in our nation, and in the world. What are we to say to these things?

Yet, there are numerous, pockets of hope. As an affiliate of the United Nations, the Non Violent Peace Force operates in small countries around the world to resolve disputes at the local level. From its beginning in 2003, this NGO trains volunteers to work with, and listen to, leaders of both sides of a local dispute in order to come to a mutual agreement.

The United Nations sponsors many organizations within its structure to encourage peace around the world by promoting and meeting peoples’ needs – some which are UNESCO (universal education and preservation of historical sights), the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF (for the benefit of children), UNAIDS (goal of zero infections and zero discrimination) and UNWOMEN (gender equality).

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship was established in 1939 with the mission to pray, study, and work for peace. Additionally, the Episcopal Church has instituted a domestic peace program called E PLURIBUS UNUM, which aims to bring people together who hold different views. The basis of the program revolves around four basic questions: What do you love? Where we do you feel loss? Where do you hurt? What do you dream?

The Cathedral Peace and Justice Ministry has been exploring EPU. We began with a forum early last year, and then in the fall, we established the LISTENING HUB. We meet on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month. Our aim is share with each other on a deep level. We want to listen to each other with the heart.

Group members are invited to share a significant experience in their lives. After each sharing, the group remains quiet for a time, silently listening for the four questions listed above, and then responding to the presenter. Throughout the year, we have chosen various themes using this basic format. The HUB can serve as a model for listening to and caring for each other, thereby promoting peace.

We have presented another Sunday forum, which attempted to deal with the subject of whether the Supreme Court decision on Dobbs affected our religious freedom.  We hope to have a public forum sometime in the future.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” – John 14:27.  With this assurance, we are all called to be peacemakers.

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7 thoughts on “A Letter from the Rev. Canon Richard Lief: International Day of Peace”

  1. I adored, revered and loved this note
    1939, Episcopalians began international Peace initiatives….who knew
    Very well said, eloquent, heart felt words.
    Thank you for the Hope. Healing, hurting, heartbroken Hopeless individuals on all 7 continents, plus our island home- this Earth needs more Peace, less strife & War.
    Amen sang the choir.

    With appreciation,
    B A Hiller
    Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council, MA

    St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, North Park, CA

  2. “The pockets of peace” you spoke of, Richard, are encouraging. I keep remembering that the good news of Jesus began to be spread by a mere 12 men. So can go the words of peace. And how wonderful is this ministry, THE LISTENING HUB. Listening is a rare commodity in these times. Thank you for such an insightful letter.


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