China Bridge (神州橋樑)_2016/Dec

Let peace begin with me

When our saviour was born, angels appeared singing praises to God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven and peace on earth to those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14).

Is God pleased with us? We have wars in many countries going on right now. We have racial and cultural problems along with people killing each other.

We are not respecting one another, or our Mother Earth.

In these last few years, we have seen people leave their homes to find peace in a new country. Many of these people took chances, asking others to guide them, only to be cheated and stranded.

Many refugees who didn’t know how to swim or sail a boat lost family through drowning.

Let There Be Peace on Earth

This is a popular song performed worldwide throughout the year, and particularly during the Christmas season, which has led to it being considered a Christmas song. It is sung in many worship services and on other occasions.

Let There Be Peace on Earth was written by husband and wife team, Sy Miller (1908 to 1971) and Jill Jackson (1913 to 1995).

It is about their dream of peace for the world and how they believed each one of us could help create it.

They first introduced it to a group of teenagers selected from high school to attend a week-long retreat in California, the United States of America.

The young people were deliberately selected from different religious, racial, cultural and economic backgrounds to be brought together in an experiment to create understanding and friendship through education, discussion and groups, as well as living and working together in a camp situation.

Miller wrote in his own words what happened: “One summer evening in 1955, a group of 180 teenagers of all races and religions, meeting at a workshop high in the California mountains locked arms, formed a circle and sang a song of peace.

They felt that singing the song, with its simple basic sentiment – Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me, helped to create a climate for world peace and understanding.

“When they came down from the mountain, these inspired young people brought the song with them and started sharing it. And, as though on wings, Let There Be Peace on Earth began an amazing journey around the globe.

“It travelled first, of course, with the young campers back to their homes and schools, Churches and clubs. Soon the circle started by the teenagers began to grow.

“Before long the song was being shared in all 50 states – at school graduations and at PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meetings, at Christmas and Easter gatherings and as part of the celebration of Brotherhood Week.

“It was a theme for Veteran’s Day, Human Rights Day and United Nations Day. 4H Clubs and the United Auto Workers began singing it. So did the American Legion, the B’nai B’rith, the Kiwanis Clubs and CORE. It was taped, recorded, copied, printed in songbooks, and passed by word of mouth.

“The song spread overseas to Holland, Italy, France, Germany, Lebanon, Japan, India, to South America, Central America, Africa, Asia and Australia. The Maoris in New Zealand sang it. The Zulus in Africa sang it.”

Professionals began singing it.

Over the years Tennessee Ernie Ford, Andy Williams, Danny Kaye, Nat King Cole, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Edie Albert, Placido Domingo, Patti Page, Bing Crosby and many more have sung the song.

The Boston Pops, the Norman Luboff Choir, the International Children’s Choir, along with television shows, have featured this song over the years and it is still highly popular in gatherings of families and friends.

Let There Be Peace on Earth was awarded the George Washington Honour Medal by the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for “Outstanding achievement in helping to bring about a better understanding of the American way of life.” It also received a Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.

In Miller’s words: “This simple, Let There Be Peace on Earth, and let It Begin with Me was first born on a mountain top in the voices of youth and it continues to travel heart to heart – gathering in people everywhere who wish to become a note in a song of understanding and peace – peace for all people.”

You can sing along with friends, or go to YouTube to listen while you sing along with professional groups.

In 2007, there was a campaign by a woman in Pennsylvania to persuade Churches to sing the song at the close of the Sunday service closest to the anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks and to establish a tradition of Peace on Earth Day.

The Young People’s Chorus of New York City performed the song on 25 September 2015 at the close of the Interfaith Prayer Service and Remembrance, presided over by Pope Francis, at Ground Zero in New York.

Presiding over the closing ceremony of the 2016 World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Pope Francis said religions and cultures in dialogue was the theme of the 30th anniversary of the event first convoked by Pope John Paul II in the city of St. Francis in 1986.

“We have come to Assisi as pilgrims in search of peace,” the pope said at a gathering of more than 400 leaders from dozens of different faith traditions.

“We carry within us and place before God the hopes and sorrows of many persons and people: we thirst for peace; we desire to witness to peace.

“Above all,” Pope Francis continued, “We need to pray for peace, because peace is God’s gift, and it lies with us to plead for it, embrace it and build it every day with God’s help.”

Before the closing ceremony, the Holy Father delivered a meditation on peace to a gathering of leaders from various Christian Churches and ecclesial communities in the lower basilica of St. Francis.

“Before Christ Crucified, the power and wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), we Christians are called to contemplate the mystery of Love not loved and to pour out mercy upon the world,” Pope Francis told the gathering.

“On the cross, the tree of life,” he continued, “evil was transformed into good; we too, as disciples of the Crucified One, are called to be trees of life that absorb the contamination of indifference and restore the pure air of love to the world.

“From the side of Christ on the cross, water flowed, that symbol of the Spirit who gives life (cf. John 19:34); so that from us, his faithful compassion may flow for all who thirst today.”

Much has changed in the three decades that have passed since Pope John Paul held the first event: the cold war has ended, while the shadow of international terrorism has grown and spread, and our failure to exercise good stewardship over creation has created new challenges to peace.

The spirit of Assisi, however, remains unchanged and each of us has a part to play in realising the hope for peace that animates this event.

Concluding his remarks, Pope Francis recalled, “Here, 30 years ago, Pope John Paul II said: ‘Peace is a workshop, open to all and not just to specialists, savants and strategists. Peace is a universal responsibility.’ Let us assume this responsibility, reaffirming today our yes to being, together, builders of the peace that God wishes for us and for which humanity thirsts.”

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

May you and your loved ones be blessed with peace at Christmas and throughout the New Year.