A line in the sand

The other night I was listening to Analysis on Radio 4, the programme was entitled ‘Line in the sand’, with reference to the Sykes – Picot Agreement. The Sykes – Picot Agreement was drawn up by the British and French Governments during the First World War, and was a plan to divide the Ottoman Empire into the present day countries of the Middle East. Potentially it would give the British and French governments a greater sphere of influence over the region, and its oil reserves.

When these so called ‘lines in the sand’ were drawn, they did not take into consideration the natural ethnic borders that were already there. Instead they were literally a straight line that went from one point to another, going through whole communities. This means that there are countries with a vast majority of one Islamic tradition and a small minority of another, with a neighbouring country having the reverse.

This is said to be one of the major contributors to the sectarian tensions of the region and a course of much of the unrest, whether it is the sole cause we will never know.

It appears that there does not seem to be much in the way of peace in the world, through one conflict or another; a quick look at the news and you will see these conflicts being played out on the world stage, most of which appear to have an element of sectarianism about them, such as those countries in the Middle East. However stories about peace are deemed not to be newsworthy, so we do not get to hear about them.

The notion of peace can often be a hard one to grasp fully, there seems to be conflicts of one form or another wherever we look, not just the armed conflicts that we hear so much about, but there is also conflict within our daily lives and routines. Being the father of three teenaged girls, I feel I am more the qualified to share with you this notion!

Peace is not always easy to find within my household, but it is not impossible, and much can be the same within our own lives. The more we look and strive for peace the greater the likelihood that we shall find it.

Lately I have been reading a book called 'Men of Habits', (before you ask it is not an anthology of drug taking with in the King’s Lynn and West Norfolk area). No, it is about the lives of four men who started monastic communities around the beginning of the 20th century. All four of these monastic communities were based upon the Franciscan way of life, of poverty and chastity, the book tell us something of the communities, their orders and the people who help to found them.

Fr. Andrew one of the founders of the Society of the Divine Compassion, (a Community founded in the east end of London amongst the poorest of people), came from a privileged background, and gave up a promising career, to be with the poorest of all. The book briefly describes some of the people he encounters, saying something of their lives and how they were trapped in the continuing circle of poverty. One thing that struck me was how the people he served would come to him with their troubles for which he would help them as much as he could, this would often lead to them coming to God and having a sense of peace.

Fr. Andrew could have had a comfortable life, instead he chose a life of poverty and service. He had great humility in serving others, when he could have been the one being served. In the second reading we hear St Paul saying ‘The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world’. By choosing poverty over wealth, humility over pride Fr. Andrew had come to the same point.

In our pride all we can see is ourselves, the many wrongs that are done to us, the many injustices that fall at our feet, how unfair life is to us. In our humility, we stop seeing ourselves and begin to see those around us; our many wrongs fall away, what seemed to be unjust has now been shown to be fair.The pride of the world falls away, to reveal the humility of Christ within us, where we find peace.

If we all hold on to our pride then we can be sure there will be no peace, conversely by looking to each other, we will see we have much in common and the differences we hold against each other will seem petty. We can never fully heal those past wrongs such as those created by the Sykes – Picot Agreement, or other past injustices, however, it is important that we try.

In St Luke’s Gospel Christ, sent out the 72 disciples into the world, telling them to offer peace to each household they go into. Through word and sacrament Christ is preparing to send us out, to bring the peace of God to all, and hopefully understanding each other. When we come to the Agnus Dei,  take to heart the words, ‘Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace’.