From Inner Peace to World Peace
An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore the meaning of peace.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and four readers.
- Have available some reflective music, such as Taizé chants, and the means to play it at the beginning and end of the assembly. An example is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuPcxLjVxtg (1.02.26 hours long in total)
Leader: Our theme today is peace and what it means: the peace of God in our world, our homes and our hearts. First, though, let us hear a couple of blessings.
Reader 1: The first blessing is a Gaelic blessing.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the watching shepherds to you.
Deep peace of the Son of peace to you.
The next blessing is an Irish blessing.
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
The rains fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
I am standing for peace and non-violence.
Why world is fighting fighting
Why all people of world
Are not following Mahatma Gandhi,
I am simply not understanding.
This is the beginning of a poem called ‘The patriot’ by Nissim Ezekiel, which is about Mahatma Gandhi’s approach to peace. Gandhi is one of the most famous people of the twentieth century and renowned for advocating peace. He fought against the British colonial empire because he wanted to bring independence to India. However, he fought by using ahimsa, which is the concept of non-violence. Gandhi fought fighting!
Leader: The words that we have heard so far set the scene for our assembly today. The theme is ‘peace’, but we all mean different things by ‘peace’. Sometimes, we just want a bit of peace and quiet. We just want to be left alone with our thoughts . . .
Reader 3: Sometimes, we want to finish something that we’ve started or are interested in . . .
Reader 4: Sometimes, we are thinking of world peace. There are so many wars in the world. Every day, we hear about people being killed by violence . . .
Reader 1: Sometimes, people die as a result of famines because the wars stop them growing things and the soldiers destroy the crops, livestock and houses . . .
Reader 2: Sometimes, we want to be alone with God. Christians and followers of other religions talk about the ‘peace of God’. It doesn’t mean that God is quiet, it means that you feel in your heart that God is close to you; God has given you a gift – the gift of peace. Jewish people use the Hebrew word ‘shalom’ to describe that gift. They greet each other with the word, meaning, ‘Peace between us, and between God and us’. It is one of those words with a variety of meanings.
Leader: So, ‘peace’ can have many layers of meaning.
Reader 3: When do you feel ‘peaceful’? Is it when you have achieved something and are content with what you have done?
Reader 4: Is it when you are with your friends and enjoying being in each other’s company? We often use phrases such as ‘at peace with the world’. Is it when you have sorted out an argument and resolved your differences that you can feel at peace?
Reader 1: There are times, though, when the most peaceful thing to do is to stand up for what is right. Being a peaceful person – or a person seeking peace – does not mean that you give in to others all the time. Standing up for others who are persecuted or disadvantaged is another meaning of peace.
Reader 2: This poem is simply called ‘First they came . . .’
First they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out –
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me –
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.
These words were written by a German pastor called Martin Niemöller. He was a Christian minister who resisted the Nazis during the Second World War. Niemöller was imprisoned in concentration camps for seven years, but the Nazis didn’t break his spirit. He died in 1984, at the age of 92.
Time for reflection
Leader: Let us now quietly reflect on how we can find peace, hope and trust in the people around us, in those who love us and in those whom we love.
Now, we are going to hear a prayer for peace written by Satish Kumar.
Lead me from death to life,
From falsehood to truth;
Lead me from despair to hope,
From fear to trust;
Lead me from hate to love,
From war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart,
Our world, our universe.
Leader: Finally, we will hear a prayer for peace in the world, but also for peace in our homes and in our hearts.
God who is called by many names,
Who is recognized in every corner of the world,
Give us peace wherever we may be –
At home or far from it,
With friends or in our loneliest moments.
Give us the peace that comes from feeling you near,
From knowing your love,
The peace that calms our needs and fears,
The peace that deepens our joy.
Some reflective music, such as Taizé chants.