"If peace is going to happen, it has to begin with me!"

Sept. 21 was The International Day of Peace, sometimes called World Peace Day. Since 1982, it has been celebrated annually by many nations, military groups, political groups, peoples that are against war, and for a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. In New York City, the United Nations Peace Bell is rung. I was surprised to learn that children from mostly all the continents donated coins to cast the bell with the inscription: "Long live absolute world peace."

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"Do you think absolute world peace is possible?" I asked Professor (and mediation master) Don Hoepfer, who teaches a Peace Studies class I'm taking at Carroll Community College. Professor Hoepfer said his thoughts are that we will not, in our lifetime, see a resolution of all conflict. No utopia. He elaborated by saying, "I do believe that we can make a substantial difference. We can't solve all conflict, but we can do a lot of good work." Hearing this, I was sort of taken aback because basically humanity wants peace now. Then I had an "ah ha" moment. He spoke of the world peace … not inner peace.

Also, on World Peace Day, there was a free screening, via Facebook, of a 2012 documentary: "Road to Peace; Ancient Wisdom of the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet," in which the Dalai Lama himself demonstrates, via his message of Universal Responsibility, how any one of us can create change within our own lives and transform the world in which we live into a more peaceful and skillful life.

Muslim scholar Imam Sulayman S. Nyang, of Howard University in Washington, D.C., states that the Koran is specific with regard to the human struggle of peace because in order for a human to be at peace with himself, they must control their baser instincts (greed, lust, and cruelty) known to Muslims as the "great jihad" — the internal struggle.

Are you leading an unsatisfactory double life — flirting between the world and God? God promises to provide us a peace that surpasses all understanding. But if we have a spiritual war going on within ourselves, we can only be victorious and find inner peace by putting on the full armor of God. How do we do that? We must use prayer, meditation, and trust in God's love for us. God wants us to have a life lived to the fullest and that includes being at peace. (The Bible contains 25 encouraging verses to give you peace.)

Personally, I'm seeing a big positive difference in the world. I see people smiling at one another more readily, saying hello, allowing another to have a parking place, holding the door for someone, returning a shopping cart for them, and even paying tolls for the person behind them. I think a shift in thinking is happening: If peace is going to happen, it has to begin with me! Maybe we are finally taking heed to what Baruch Spinoza said in the 1600s, "Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence …"

The Rev. Ellin M. Dize is executive director of nonprofit NRS Inc. and facilitates A Course in Miracles spiritual discussion group at St. Paul's UCC. She can be contacted at NRSsolutions@yahoo.com.

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