Aiming for Peace
The fruits of peace
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Key Stage 4/5
To explore the concept of peace.
Preparation and materials
- You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Aiming for Peace) and the means to display them.
- For the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly, you will also need to select some music videos on the Playing for Change website (available at: https://www.playingforchange.com/) and have the means available to show them during the assembly.
Note: several Playing for Change videos are available on the Videos tab at the top of the web page.
- Show Slides 1 to 3.
Ask the students what the three images have in common.
- Point out that although many people talk about the need for peace, it is difficult to maintain peace in reality. The news is full of pictures and reporting from around the world, where some places are the opposite of peaceful.
- The Bible speaks about the ‘fruit of the Spirit’. Christians believe that this refers to the attributes that should be seen in their lives if they are following God. There are nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Most people would agree that these are good qualities to have in our lives. However, peace is hard to achieve, keep and maintain.
- We can view peace in various ways, but this assembly will consider peace in ourselves, the conflict we may have with others and the wider search for peace within our society and the world.
- Show Slide 4.
Let’s start by considering the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, a nineteenth-century American philosopher and poet. He said: ‘Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.’
This is a good place to start for talking about peace, because to gain peace is to end disagreements, hostilities and war. However, to live in a time of peace is something that no generation has ever really known.
- Over 100 years ago, it was thought that the First World War was ‘the war to end all wars’. However, just over 20 years later, the world was in the throes of another war more devastating than the first.
Every day, we see pictures of wars in different parts of the world. It might make us wonder if there will ever be peace.
- However, alongside war comes peace: they go hand in hand. In his novel War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy tells the story of five aristocratic Russian families as periods of war and periods of peace come and go. He shows us how each family and the other characters within the novel change and develop during those times.
It takes effort to create reconciliation and calm after conflict. In our own lives, we need to make peace with each other after we have had a fight.
- Peace can be seen as something to pass on. In Christian worship, there is a section of the Holy Communion service that encourages the congregation to ‘offer one another a sign of peace’. They are encouraged to shake hands with one another, or perhaps hug one another, and pass on the peace of Christ by saying ‘Peace be with you’.
- Jesus himself was a well-known pacifist (someone who believes in non-violence). When it came to his arrest on the night before his death, he went freely, without having to be forced.
Jesus’ companions were ready to fight for him, but he said, ‘Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.’ (Matthew 26.52)
With these words, Jesus demonstrated his belief that if we try to resolve things violently, the violence will surely continue and follow us.
- Show Slide 5.
In Jesus’ eyes, peace was so important that he thought that those who strove for peace were blessed. In the Sermon on the Mount, he said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5.9).
Here, we see the hope that one day, there will be peace because those who use peace in their lives and spread it to others will benefit. It can be easier to retaliate and hit back, but it takes self-control to walk away and follow the peaceful route. We might have to take a deep breath and maybe count to ten to leave behind the name-calling or nasty comments. By maintaining a peaceful response, we place ourselves above those who would be violent to us.
- Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke are the co-founders of an organization called Playing for Change, which tries to bring peace by uniting people around the world through music. What better way to bring people together in peace, to understand one another, than through a common denominator: the power of music?
- World peace is an admirable aim. The International Day of Peace takes place on 21 September every year. It was established in 1981 by the United Nations and has been observed around the world ever since. The day encourages people to commit to peace above all other differences.
Time for reflection
Show your selection of music videos from the Playing for Change website.
Let’s recall those words by Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘peace can only be attained through understanding.’ Well, music is a great way to understand one another!
May there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
Help me to be slow to judge and quick to create peace.
‘Stand by me’ from the Playing for Change website, available at: http://tinyurl.com/yc73xlc8 (5.28 minutes long)
‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’, available at: https://youtu.be/fYz14jEoaeU (2.47 minutes long)