The war to end all wars ended over four score years ago, but war didn’t end. People want world peace, but armed conflict continues. As these words are written, soldiers are fighting, bombs are falling and innocent people are becoming refugees. People of conscience decry the brutality, and leaders who want peace can find no better way to stop the killing than to kill the adversary.

War is not an accident. It is not a force of nature like an earthquake or a hurricane. War arises from social conditions and people’s attitudes. Conditions that sow the seeds of war include:

  • Social instability
  • Economic inequity
  • People feel powerless
  • Government fears the people
  • Uncertainty in the transition from one form of government to another
  • Unclear borders
  • Conflicting philosophies
  • Power elite fears losing power
  • Attitudes that promote war include:
  • We don’t like you—you’re different
  • We don’t have enough. We want what you have.
  • You have taken what we want and we must have it back.
  • We have been betrayed. We want revenge.
  • You are doing evil and must be stopped.
  • We must protect our land and our families.
  • We have a better way of living and we will spread the truth by force.
  • We are God’s people and it is his will that we conquer our neighbors.
  • And finally, violence is justified.
  • Social conditions will always change, just as the seasons change. Turmoil can be expected, especially in times of transition like ours. We can though, work toward creating conditions for peace. We can support social, political and economic equality. We can help educate and empower people. We can support institutions that promote justice and democracy. We can support leaders who will do these things too.

    Changing attitudes is as important as changing conditions that lead to war. Peace is more than the absence of war. It is a state of mind. It is a way of life. We are not at peace if we carry warlike thoughts in our minds. We will not have peace if we promote our selfishness. Peace is a state of calm arising from a heart of compassion. Peace grows in our hearts and grows through our deeds. We promote peace by living in loving kindness. We endanger peace when we embrace  the separation of us and them.

    When we give up strong desires for things, we are closer to peace. When we give up insisting that others be or think like us, when we give up our desire for revenge, when we release our attachment to the correctness of our particular point of view, we make space in our hearts for peace. When we learn compassion and practice loving kindness we become the power of peace.


    Spend time in quiet contemplation examining your own attitudes.
    Where are the boundaries of love and hostility in your heart and mind?
    What makes you angry?
    What type of person do you fear, dislike, avoid?
    Examine your relationship to violence.
    Do you commit violent behavior?
    Does it amuse or entertain you?
    Under what conditions do you believe violence is acceptable?
    What is your attitude about revenge?
    How often do you try to get back at people?
    What does it accomplish?
    Take time to think about something you can do to support the conditions for peace.
    What do you have to give?
    How can you serve peace?

    Peace Prayer of a Buddhist Priest

    O mighty lord of cosmic light. Thou art the lifegiver, sustainer, and preserver. Bless this suffering world and bestow peace in our minds. Give us strength to live in Peace and Harmony together. Banish from the face of the earth, Violence and Conflict of every kind. Transform this world into Love and Compassion for Now and All Times. O mighty lord, the sustainer and giver of life, bathe this troubled world with radiant rays of thy compassionate light.

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    © 1999-2002 Tom Barrett