By Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon
“Without justice, there can be no peace. He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he would help perpetrate it.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
The great military war hero and president of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower once said: “peace and justice are the opposite sides of the same coin.” Often in advocacy work calling for the end of the occupation of the Palestinian people and in promoting human rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), we hear the expression “no peace without justice.” We also hear that peace is viewed with suspicion and distrust for Palestinians; while Israelis have a similar perception of the word justice. For many Palestinians, the word peace, and even more so security, often seems to be an excuse or a justification of the ongoing continuation of policies that limit their right to movement, justify military presence and occupation, control and limit access to resources, and other painful daily realities of living under occupation. For many Israelis, they fear the pursuit of justice condones a violent and militant response in Palestinian resistance.
What does it mean to pursue peace with justice? And how might we advocate for justice in ways that do not further perpetuate violence and harm, while also not compromising on the manifestation of human rights and equality?
Peace and justice are inextricably linked. Sometimes peace is defined as lack of war, or when harmony exists among people and people groups. However, President Ronald Reagan once said, “Peace is more than just the absence of war. True peace is justice, true peace is freedom, and true peace dictates the recognition of human rights.” Justice can be defined by what is true, right, good, and fair. I wrote in Social Justice Handbook: Small Steps for a Better World about how justice is the way God intended for the world to be. When complete justice is manifested, we are in right relationship with God, with our neighbors, and with our enemies. Peace and justice are fundamentally linked. If we truly want war and conflicts to end, we must advocate for the manifestation of justice through the application of human rights, dignity, and equality for all people. If we truly want justice, and for wrongs to be made right, we must also pray and advocate for peace. Many Israeli and Palestinian nonviolent peace activists play the role of being courageous advocates for peace with justice. Let us encourage their efforts and lift them up in prayer this Lenten season.
Join me and Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) as we work for justice and pray for peace.
Prince of Peace,
God of shalom and salaam. God of justice. We pray for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians to end. We hold onto persistent hope that peace is possible and justice will one day prevail. Come with your peace and let justice and equality be a marker of the future for Palestinians, Israelis, and all people in the Middle East. We pray in the name of Christ.