Helen Copeland reviews Blessed Are the Peacemakers – 99 Sayings on Peace, edited by William Muhs.
[New City Magazine]
I’m a great believer in lists, and this is a trait I seem to share with many others, if the contents of the newsstands are to be believed. ‘Twenty ways to a healthier life’ or ‘147 top tips for DIY success’ are typical of what we may be offered.
This little book containing ‘99 sayings on Peace’ is a refreshing alternative to the solve-all body of writing that seems to surround us.
Peace is a small word with endless meaning. We all seek it somehow, somewhere, consciously or not. In ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers’ the editor has drawn together a huge variety of thinkers, writers, religious figures and traditional sources, to produce a treasure box of thoughts on this subject so close to the hearts of all.
The range of sources is impressive. Some are well known, others less familiar. The many Christian traditions are represented, from Thomas Aquinas to Martin Luther King. Politicians and scientists offer their reflections too, but the book also shows the universal nature of peace. African and Arab proverbs are offered, as well as quotations from Islamic sacred scripture. It is surely an aid to mutual understanding in this post-9/11 world to know that the Q’uran says, ‘Even if you extend your hand to kill me, I will not extend mine to do the same; because I fear God, the Lord of the world’.
Each saying is very short; from a few words, to a couple of sentences at most. This makes it ideal to grab a quick ‘thought for the day’, but also there is food for deeper meditation when life allows.
Ideas about inner peace lie page to page with the challenge to bring about true peace with justice. Some writers point to personal stillness with God, and others may make us uncomfortable in our stillness while others in the world continue to suffer oppression. Many offer their conclusion that finding peace as an individual is inextricably linked with bringing peace in the world around us.
This book is inspirational in many ways. It is also beautifully presented, and would make an ideal gift. It may not be 99 instant ways to save the world, but it certainly has many helpful lights for the journey.