The Second Week of Advent
“On earth peace, good will toward men,” sang angels hovering over a land heaving with political and racial tension, ruled by a degenerate despot, choked by Roman oppression, crowded in on all sides by competing foreign powers—a land, which in just one generation would collapse under revolt, its temple razed to the ground.
Yet it is precisely into the heart of such a conflict-rife setting that the shimmering, pulsating words “peace” and “good will” spilled down the conduit from God’s presence. Like pure water, they gushed into this murky sphere, sending bright, ever-expanding ripples across the thick Judean night. Peace, proclaimed the angels. Peace on this harsh, hostile earth.
The word “peace” makes us pause, shake our heads. Can reasonable people really believe in, let alone strive for peace? Can we, knowing what we do of human nature and of mankind’s history of soaking this earth’s crust in fratricidal blood—can we hope for peace?
We proclaim without reservation that not only can we hope for peace, but we must. At Christmastime especially, when we kneel before the Prince of Peace, we renew our covenant to hope for peace, to claim and proclaim peace, and to proliferate His peace.
Melissa Dalton-Bradford is co-founder of Their Story is Our Story, a humanitarian nonprofit which documents and shares firsthand accounts of refugee experiences and advocates for refugee relief and a co-founder of Mormon Women for Ethical Government, a global nonpartisan women’s civic engagement and peacemaking community.
The Six Principles of Peacemaking
At MWEG's founding, we adopted as our guide the six principles of nonviolence as adapted by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from the ideas of Mohandas K. Gandhi and other philosophers. After much thought and prayer, we chose to adapt these principles for our organization, with a focus on actively making peace and following the example of Jesus Christ.
1. Peacemaking is proactive and courageous.
We are all called to be peacemakers. We acquire the necessary courage and confidence for this work by filling our hearts and minds with pure knowledge, charity, and virtue. (See Matthew 5:9 and D&C 121:42, 45.)
2. Peacemaking seeks to unify instead of divide.
We believe that only kindness, empathy, and pure love can adequately enlarge our souls, strip us of hypocrisy, and help us become reconciled to Jesus Christ and to one another. (See Ephesians 2:14, 19 and D&C 121:42.)
3. Peacemaking demands great tolerance for people and none for injustice.
We believe we are all daughters and sons of God and are, therefore, sisters and brothers. As such, we do not wish ill on each other and try to possess charity for all. However, we boldly reject and oppose any attempt to use power or authority for the purposes of self-interest, justification of evil, or exercising unrighteous dominion or compulsion over others. We seek to dismantle all such corruption and the injustices which it perpetuates. (See Psalm 82:6, Ephesians 5:11, and D&C 121:37.)
4. Peacemaking views human suffering as sacred.
Suffering is an inevitable part of mortal existence that can be redemptive when we allow it to draw us closer to God and to each other. Peacemaking requires that we be willing both to suffer voluntarily for just causes and to alleviate the suffering of others wherever possible. In both cases, we emulate the Savior himself. For those to whom we cannot provide relief, we bear witness to their suffering, mourn with them in solidarity, and persistently shine a light on the causes of that suffering. (See 2 Corinthians 1:3–5 and Mosiah 18:8–9.)
5. Peacemaking chooses love instead of hate.
We believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe and that any good relations can be maintained only through persuasion, patience, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned, and that through this love, the hearts of all people might be knit together. (See D&C 121:41, 1 Corinthians 13:4–8, and Mosiah 18:21.)
6. Peacemaking believes that ultimate peace is not only possible, but sure.
We believe that through Christ, who overcame all, we can have the hope of peace in this life, regardless of our circumstances, and the promise of everlasting peace when Christ comes again to reign forever as the Prince of Peace. (See John 16:33 and D&C 59:23.)
Music: Arvo Pärt - Da Pacem Domine
Remembering Julia Mavimbela
A reflection by Cecelia Proffit, based on research by Mikayla Orton Thatcher.
On the second Sunday of Advent I light a candle for peace, and I try to remember that peace is often built in unexpected ways. I try to remember that peacemaking is active, that it works for justice, and that it often looks like the ordinary, extraordinary work of tying things together. And as part of that remembering, I take inspiration from Julia Nompi Nqubeni Mavimbela.
Julia was a Black South African woman born in 1917 who lived through Apartheid in South Africa. I first encountered her story in Beehive Girl by Mikayla Orton Thatcher. Thatcher writes,
In 1946 [Julia] met and married John Mavimbela. . . . She was 38 and pregnant with their fifth child when John died in a car accident in 1955.
As if the grief and stress of losing her husband and the father of her children were not enough, Julia was also burdened by rage. Another driver had swerved into John's lane, killing him. The courts blamed the accident on John, citing racist stereotypes as their evidence. The police who dealt with the scene stole a large sum of money that John had been carrying when he died. Anger and resentment haunted Julia for two decades, as she raised five children without John.
Her personal tragedy and its aftermath were, of course, part of a much larger pattern of abuse and injustice that would soon come to a head. . . . In June of 1976, children in the town of Soweto, where Julia lived, went on strike from school and organized a mass demonstration in the streets. . . . They were met with extreme police brutality. . . . Many public buildings—especially schools and libraries—were burned. The town was devastated by the intense violence and the loss of so many children. The schools remained closed for the next two years and many adults were out of work. . . .
Julia’s own children were grown by now, but she had an idea that only a mother/teacher/psychologist/grocer such as herself could have come up with: she began to teach neighborhood children to garden. She established a community garden and helped families clean out and cultivate vacant lots. She used seed packets and old workbooks to teach kids to read, channeling their desire to learn. She taught nutrition classes in her home. The people of Soweto had fresh vegetables and blooming flowers.
They gradually cleaned up the rubble and destruction left in the wake of the state violence. She recalled, ‘As others watched us struggle with the overgrowth of stubborn weeds, they too became involved, and I moved from corner to corner of Soweto replacing the useless and the ugly with the beneficial and beautiful.’ She used the work to teach the children about forgiveness and healing and felt her own burden begin to dissipate.
As the schools reopened and as her heart continued to heal, Julia co-founded Women for Peace, a group that tackled a variety of issues: literacy, infant care education, fair pay for teachers of all races, the Matrimonial Property Act (allowing a widow, rather than the eldest son, to inherit her husband's property), integrated playgrounds, prison reform, and more. Women for Peace was eventually fifteen thousand strong, with women from all races illegally mixing into a single group. Julia was its co-president.
Poem: The Peace of Wild Things
When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children.
Recipe: Date, Cheddar, and Dark Chocolate Cookies
Peace happens when unlikely things come together. These cheddar, date, and dark chocolate cookies are a combination of very different, random things, but come together to create a beautiful cookie.
Podcast Episode: Forgiving Judas
A pilgrimage to a remote monastery in Italy unexpectedly opens up a wounded heart to forgiveness. Part of a Constant Wonder series marking the Christian Advent with daily vignettes that distill the spirit of the season.