Peace without Justice is no Peace at all: a reflection from Beirut

By mission partners Phil and Sylvie Good

“Peace without justice is no peace at all.”

This phrase keeps reverberating around my head.

For a while now I have been trying to get my head around the challenge of living righteously in a country where corruption seems to blight everything you do. You see, when I pray for peace for an individual I have a problem, because often they are victims of an injustice – maybe from a person or by the system. I pray for peace that the anger and pain they feel will be comforted and healed by God’s wonderful love; the knowledge that he sits alongside in our suffering is a great help.

But tomorrow that unjust system or person is still there and the peace we seek will be torn apart by some act of deceit, cruelty or ignorance. So when I pray for peace I find very close behind it a cry for justice, and then I feel that maybe I should be active in solving the injustice. It is difficult to lie down.

Here in Lebanon I am hearing a lot of prayers for peace and I am confused because often the prayers for peace are rising out of a fear of violence. And yet there is a violence here that has at its heart a prayer for an end to injustice. How do I reconcile these two prayers? One a prayer for removal of violence; the other a prayer for the overthrow of the injustice.

We are afraid of violence and we pray that people of violence will be frustrated in their plans and that Lebanon will enjoy peace. If the violence ceases and normal life resumes we may think peace has returned.

But while the guns are hidden, the crowds are at home and the soldiers are eating dinner, there is a violence that walks unchecked through the streets. The underprivileged who are not allowed to work, the underpaid who cannot get a decent wage, the abused domestic worker whose cries go unheard – the list is long and these people cannot know peace while injustice walks the streets unchallenged.

If we truly pray for peace, then we have to challenge the injustice that robs so many of the peace they deserve. And if we challenge the injustice, if we hold it to account, we can expect to encounter resistance and probably violence, because there are many who gain from injustice. The people who benefit from injustice are more powerful and have more resources, and this makes it dangerous to expose injustice.

I want to pray for peace that means an end to the hidden violence I can feel in the air around me. There is a peace that Jesus talks about, a peace not as the world gives (John 14:27).

Living in a world that is full of trouble and suffering, the peace the world offers is often little more than a quiet space in between moments of violence. In the quiet space we know that the causes of violence are still around us and if we are honest, they live within us too.

But the peace that Jesus talks about is one where the causes of violence in our own hearts are dealt with by Jesus’ love. In Jesus peace and justice come together.

Out of this righteous justice and peace with God that Jesus brings, we can engage with the injustice around us; we can take up the fight for peace which is the fight for justice.

Jesus the Prince of Peace does not lie down and rest while there is injustice destroying the peace he died for. His death brought peace and justice with God, and he is with us. He will not lie down until peace and justice rule the whole earth. And so I offer this prayer for Lebanon at this time:

We pray for Peace
Peace where the pain hurts most
Peace for the obvious external violence
And Peace for the hidden internal violence
Healing for the hurt caused by all violence
A healing of the scars in the bodies
And a healing for the scars in the souls
Peace without end
Peace that understands
Peace that has nails in hands and feet
Peace with a hole in the side feeling pain
Peace that is greater than hate and war
Peace that is bigger than my fears
Peace that does not give up
Peace that brings justice
Peace that won’t lie down

Full text can be found here.

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