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  • Rıdvan Demir


This paper will mostly focus on the compression of the book by Henri Nouwen, ‘peace work’ and the article of Bryan N. Massingale, ‘the beloved community revisited’. I will analyze the material mostly through Christian perspective and will discuss the meaning and contents of pray, resistance and community concepts in Nouwen.

Today, many wars still continue to occur in our world in different geographies. As well known, 8 million people died in the First World War, while 52 million in the second. This makes at least totally 60 million deaths. Most killings occurred in Russia with 25 million people. Following that, 6 million Jewish people were killed. The cost to the world of one person’s admiration of the German race was too much. Millions died. For what? Or why? Why did millions hate each other? Why were all racing to kill each other by submarines, war planes, B-52’s, and atom bombs, like the one that killed 125.000 people in Hiroshima? How could we stop the wars, or in other words how could we stop to kill each other or could be reconciled to God or be at peace? For Nouwen, there are three important concepts for the solution of this great problem, which still exists in our world. Those are pray, resistance, and community life.

According to Nouwen, ‘nobody can be a Christian without being a peacemaker.’ [1] For him, pray is a travel from fear and hate to the house of God. [2] Indeed, pray is to call to the God. It starts from our hearts and grows in social environment and spreads to the all world. Prayer is the center of a human. The unique necessity is prayer, which means to live with God here and all the time. [3] Panic, fear and anxiety cannot establish a peaceful world, because fear threatens peace. Peacemaking is the way of love that does not include fear that has been annihilated by perfect love. Before the time we did not know how to love God, God loved us by eternal love that is ‘the first love’. Perfectly, in Nouwen, if one joins all prayers, we will be in this first love, love of God the eternal one. Therefore, we have prayers that are able to help the world that has annihilated itself by wars, hates, revenges, and the other evil things. Today, if we stay at the church even for prayers, this means that we are the part of the problem. Our prayers will never be enough to stop the wars and the problems. It still exists in our world and in our modern century and become increasingly difficult, cannot be solved. Interestingly, for Nouwen, that is not true. According to his wonderful mentality, if we, men have prayers all the time, this gives us peace and this peace helps us to confess our sins, and then these sins that are causes of the wars are annihilated by our confesses. Thus our prayers annihilate wars. In fact, this great mentality of Nouwen is concerned with religious study, directly. If one takes religious and morality education, this person cannot kill the other, especially the peoples by nuclear weapons. I believe that nuclear holocaust [4] can be stopped with only religious study in our century. While many people would like to educate their brains, the same people do not like to take religious study for their hearts. They do not know what exactly mercy or being merciful means, even towards animals.

The basic word of peacemaker should be resistance in his/her life. To be resistant means to say ‘no’ to all things that order death by wars and demolishing while to say ‘yes’ to all ways of peace and love. To work for peace means to work for life, but more than ever in history; we have wars, demolishing, death, its ways and methods. [5] It is possible only by saying ‘no’ to competition of nuclear weapons when we will say ‘no’ to desire of killing in our minds and hearts, even for an ant. We can never think differently the peace where is placed in our hearts and in our worlds. Anything starts before the other one and anything is more important than the other. Everything which has life had to be embraced in the name of peace, we have to love even enemies. [6] Only a heart, which loves, can say ‘no’ to death. ‘Yes’ of peacemaker is a pretty humble ‘yes’, however, fighter is so proud, arrogant and have revenge feelings. Nevertheless, the ‘yes’ of peacemaker should be an unchanged ‘yes’. They have to say ‘yes’ all the time and in all situations. [7] However, sometimes, peace is impossible particularly in the case of legitimate defense for our countries or in our lives. According to Romero, violence is possible in only three situations.

1. that the violence of legitimate defense not be greater than the unjust aggression.

2. that one resort to a form of violence, in proportion to the need, only after every other possible peaceful means has been tried.

3. that the violence used in defense not bring in retaliation an even greater evil than that being resisted. [8]

Generally, resistance is an action/active part of peacemaking while prayer is a passive one. Nevertheless, prayer is not only resistance but resistance is a prayer for peace. We can re-establish a peace making world when we see this mentality.

In this point, I will have to quote from the book of Nouwen that:

“Christian resistance is nonviolent, because the peace we want to bring is not of this world. It is brought not by enslaving our enemies, but by converting them; not by showing strength, but by sharing in the confession of a common weakness; not by becoming unapproachable, but by making oneself vulnerable; not by retaliation, but by turning the other cheek; not by violence, but by love.” [9]

“When peacemakers are not part of community, they are not part of the living Christ, and their peace is a false peace.” [10]

“Thus the community of peacemaking is a Eucharistic community.” [11]

“The community of peacemakers, therefore, is much more than a supportive context for peace activists. It is that joyful and grateful place where the New Jerusalem becomes visible. It is the Jerusalem toward which we travel always, but it is also the Jerusalem whose peace we already know in our heart. From this community the song goes up:

I rejoiced when I heard them say:

Let us goes to God’s house

And now our feet are standing

Within your gates, o Jerusalem…” [12]

Christ is the first peacemaker since he opened the house of God to all people and thus made the old creation new” [13]

Of course local churches, which are located all over the world, give support to (i.e. in El Salvador, Mexico and Afghanistan [14]) peace, however, the last part of the book that is concerned with community looks like to support the exclusivist approach.

There are three people in Catholic world that talk about peace and world. They are Thomas Aquinas, Frances the Victoria, and Augustine. Nevertheless, divine love, natural love, and human love are very important concepts in Christianity. I think prayer and resistance are not important without community awareness. If there is not community awareness, people will become personal heroes. Therefore the workings of peacemaking will convert to ‘individual heroism’. There is an Italian proverb that: if everyone clears in front of his/her door, all streets will be clear. However, Nouwen’s approach is exclusivist and it is so important for man. According to him [15] the “Jesus’ way is the way without curses, weapons, violence, or power” so if all scholars who are from different religious traditions interpret their religions I believe that all street/whole world will be very clear/peaceful.

Conclusion of the book starts with “‘blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ ” (Matt. 5:9). These words of Jesus are the basis of this book”. According to author, the main goal of this book is not escape from this world. This is considered really bad to Jesus Christ as a Christian community. However, the main aim of book is to stop nuclear wars and all holocausts as brothers and sisters of Jesus and children of God. For the author, he has written this book for calling to peace, for Christians who believe in Jesus Christ with their all hearts. This is the declaration to optimistic people who live in the world. This approach looks much more inclusive than the community selection of this book. According to St. James where there is jealousness and ambitions there are wars and inharmoniousness. However, where there is wisdom, love, and forgiveness; there is peace and mercy there. That is really a wonderful approach placed in the New Testament. [16]

According to Martin Luther King Jr., American society is not only a society that consists of different races and cultures, but it consists of different faiths at the same time. According to national public radio’s reports, today, the number of Muslims who live in the United States is more than that of Jews who live in the US. [17] Indeed, Muslim population in the US is more populated than the Episcopalian, Methodist, and Presbyterian population that live in the US. The most important point is not populations, but the important thing is that how our faith affects American society. According to the same reports, Hindus and Buddhists affected the American society as well. To say that ‘the US is a white Christian country’ is a really big mistake. However, we can say that dominant group is of course Anglo-Saxon Protestants’. So King mentioned social and justice reform as very clear in the middle of 1950 and 1960’s. His vision was ‘the beloved community’ and his approach to community was looking pretty inclusivistic. [18]

For King, the beloved community has vision that is normative and ethic. This situation is not only for his movement that was located in a country he lived, but his understanding of the beloved community should be a specific aim for all human societies for social justice.

“A sort of definition of the beloved community of king is that it is “an inclusive and interracial society characterized by freedom and justice for all.” Or again, the beloved community is “that interracial fellowship that witnesses to the redemptive possibilities of reconciling love.” [19]

Thus, for King, community/society understanding is inclusivistic and embracing to all, although his understanding originates from injustice persecutions to African American community, particularly in 1960’s America. On the other hand, for King, desegregation and integration concepts are so important. The beloved community is integration and it is a tolerance, which is to live together and coexist. So society is a love circle, which can embrace ‘the other’. In this point, king uses a simile that is ‘the great world house’ that recognizes all the others in society. Respect means to live together for King: black-white, Eastern-Western, Gentile-Jew, Catholic-Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu and so on. All those groups can live together in peace, but never hate and be violent and can somehow find a way out just like one family, which is full love. Briefly, the beloved community is inclusive and human community wherever we live, and whenever we live. To live as brothers and sisters congratulating our each other and allowing to peace as reconciliation our each other. Interfaith dialogue and religious pluralism have become increasingly important in the world, especially in the US.

For King, white man can never ignore black one, because those two races are parts of each other, particularly in American society, which is really multicultural, probably the most multicultural society in the world, today. Interestingly, King who died in 1960s believed that American society would be just like promised lands one day and then society will reach racial justice. He had deep hope in this topic although it is a utopia for some people. [20] Undoubtedly, King believed in peace and social justice despite. His views affected Catholic ethic understanding. [21] Because King understood as how did he look. He looked positive and saw positive. I would like to add some verses from three Holy Scriptures from Abrahamic tradition. The following periscopes will help us to understand our religious traditions how can look is just like:

“he who destroys one life, it is as if he destroyed the whole world. And he who preserves one life, it is as if has preserved the whole world” (Talmud, Sanhedrin, 4:5)

“and when the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them, then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy.” (Deuteronomy 7:2)

“but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt. 5:44) “blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matt.5:9)

“do not think that I have come to send peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” (Matt. 10:34-35)

O humankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Allah is knower, aware.” (Qur’an 49:13)

“and kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the sacred mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.” (Qur’an 2:191)

In conclusion, Pope Pius XII on war: ‘nothing is lost by peace; everything may be lost in war.’ [22] for Nouwen, “Then the missiles will rust away in their silos, the submarines will decay, and the bombers will be put in museums to remind children that once there were savage time.” [23] Whoever loses in wars, the ones who really lose are children. And children are our future. It is them who will re-establish our new world in peace and love. In Ecclesiastes 3:8, “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” I think we have a time for love and peace, at least for our children. I really hopeful that we will look all as optimistic. ‘We peacemakers’ see a light at the end of tunnel.


Baum Gregory, Religion and Globalization.

German Bishops, a Just Peace, 2000.

McDonald Patricia, God and Violence: Biblical Resources for Living in a Small World, Scott date.

Michel Androas, Conflict, Mediation and Peacemaking in the Pastoral Praxis of the Diocese of San Cristobel de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

Massingale Brayn N., the Beloved Community Revisited: Martin Luther King’s Contribution to Nouwen Henry, Maryknoll 2005.

Roman Catholic Ethics, Chicago 2002.

Romero, the Church’s Mission Amid the National Crisis.

---, the Church and Popular Political Organizations.

[1] Henry Nouwen, Maryknoll 2005, p. 16. [2] For king, this world is the great house of God. Therefore everybody can live with the others in the world. [3] Nouwen, 33. [4] Or genetic holocaust by genome maps of races. I call that genetic holocaust. Unfortunately, it has increasingly become difficult to solve the problem. I really cannot think the next century. The smaller weapons, but the larger murders (!) [5] Nouwen, p. 50-51. [6] See Luke, 6:27-28. [7] Nouwen, p. 77. [8] Romero, the Church’s Mission Amid the National Crisis, p. 145, the other types of violence are those: institutionalized violence, the repressive violence of the state (I think the most dangerous ones are the first two), seditious or terrorist violence, spontaneous violence, violence in legitimate self-defense (discussed above), the power of nonviolence. See Romero, the Church and Popular Political Organizations, p. 106-107. The last one is the power of nonviolence. It is very important for Mohammed Abu-nimer’s nonviolence and peace-building in Islam: theory and practice and Eknath Easwaran’s non-violent soldier of Islam, a biography of Abdul Gaffar khan. And also a friend of Mahatma Gandhi organized a non-violent army toward British forces in India. March Gopin gives many examples of peacemaking practices in the world religions. See Gregory Baum, religion and globalization, p. 145. I believe that the perfect violence is of course is passive resistance/non-violence sometimes if when we really need it. First violence topic is in Geneses. The periscope refers Cain’ killing his brother Abel. See gen. 4:3-5. see other Patricia McDonald, God and violence: biblical resources for living in a small world, Scott date, p. 38 and see other the German bishops, a just peace, 2000, p. 9-11. I think God has given the two brothers as an example representative of nations and tribes. So God implicitly has said that you were biological brothers and sisters in the past, even today. Unfortunately, we man have still killing each other competition by chemical weapons. What a pity… Catholic social thought (CST) continues to struggle to stop to all wars just like many religious traditions in the world. [9] Nouwen, p. 93. [10] Nouwen, p.101. [11] Nouwen 118. [12] Nouwen, p.121-122. [13] Nouwen, 126. [14] Androas Michel, conflict, mediation and peacemaking in the pastoral praxis of the diocese of San Cristobel de las casas, Chiapas, Mexico, see p. 7-11. Besides, Pope John Paul II (his majesty) protested the bombing of Afghanistan. Nevertheless, archbishop Martino, the Vatican’s permanent observer at the UN at that time, made a statement. See Gregory Baum, religion and globalization, p. 143-144. [15] I also think the same way. [16] James 3:16. [17] I guess, Muslims who live the US around 6.5 million while Jews who live the US around million. [18] Brayn N. Massingale, the beloved community revisited: Martin Luther King’s contribution to Roman Catholic ethics, Chicago 2002, p. 2-3. [19] Massingale, p. 5. [20] Massingale, p. 10-11. [21] Massingale, p. 17. [22] Romero, p. 145. [23] Nouwen, p. 120.


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