The 10 Commandments of Peacemaking

Dr. Andrew Wilson (Author of World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts)

Conference during the
Middle East Peace Initiative; December 21, 2003; Jerusalem

This conference of the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace is taking place in the Middle East, the cradle of the three Abrahamic religions. The history of this region is soaked with religionóand the bloodstained footprints of religious strife. Religion is a passion that motivates people to live here, and to die here.

Nevertheless, from the democratic institutions of the State of Israel to the diplomatic efforts of the UN, the pursuit of peace remains within the canons of secular policies. Religious passions have been regarded as a nuisance at best, and at worst as obstacles to be overcome. Today, we know this assumption to be incorrect. Religious passions cannot be vouchsafed, and dealing with religions is now recognized as a crucial piece to peacemaking.

As Hans KŁng and many others have noted, harmony among religions is a necessary prerequisite to world peace. Enlightened religious leadership is needed to guide believers into tolerant and open-minded attitudes towards people of other faiths. In this spirit as well, Rev. Moon is calling for the clergy of every religion to recover their founders' spirit of love and compassion for all humanity.

Every religion has its own unique rituals and doctrines. Dwelling on them tends to divide people. Nevertheless, there is a universal ethic in all religions, which elevates human relationships and promotes genuine love. The first revelation of this universal ethic was the Ten Commandments, which God gave to Moses as the basis of the first monotheistic religion. Today monotheism has spread all over the world among all the children of Abraham, and the precepts revealed to Moses are recognized everywhere as truth. Couldnít the Ten Commandments also become a foundation for peace among all the Abrahamic faiths?

In this light, I will delineate "Ten Commandments of Peacemaking." Based upon the truth of the original Ten Commandments, these commandments can be of utmost relevance to the present-day situation, and especially applicable to making peace among the children of Abraham. They are recommended to all leaders and all believers in the one God.

  1. Believe in God as the Parent of all human beings

"I am the Lord your GodÖ You shall have no other Gods before Me." There is only one God. He is the Creator of all human beings. He is the Guide to all humankind, the Source of the revelations of all religion. The commandment, "Believe in God as the Parent of all human beings," begins from the unity, authority and omnipresence of God to define the basic outlook of every human being towards his neighbor, whatever his religion, race and nationality.

First, every human being is a child of God. Every human being is therefore worthy of respect. There is no justification in Godís sight for discrimination on the basis of race, religion, nationality, class, wealth or social status. When we see the image of God in our enemy, we can no longer regard him as an enemy, as Martin Luther King taught:

When we look beneath the surface, beneath the impulsive evil deed, we see within our enemy-neighbor a measure of goodness and know that the viciousness and evilness of his acts are not quite representative of all that he is. We see him in a new light. We recognize that his hate grows out of fear, pride, ignorance, prejudice, and misunderstanding, but in spite of this, we know Godís image is ineffably etched in his being.

Second, the method by which God, the divine Parent, has chosen to educate His children is through religion. It follows that God is the Author of all the major religions. All religions contain Godís revealed truth; all religions continually receive Godís guidance for the purpose of educating His children.

Third, as God gives parental love and care to all people, human beings should likewise care for one another. As any parent rejoices when his or her children live in harmony and are distressed when they fight, we can bring joy to God by living in peace with our neighbors both near and far. In sum, human beings are members of a single worldwide family, sisters and brothers in the parental love of God.

  1. Recognize the Priority to the Heart and Mind over Material Conditions

"You shall not make for yourself any graven image." The second commandment states that God cannot be portrayed in material terms. The same is true with human beings, who are created in Godís image.

Humans are spiritual beings. The motivations of the heart and mind far outweigh the conditions of the body. In fact, whether a person is rich or poor, he can be moved to take up violence by emotional forces like hate, envy and resentment. Osama bin Ladin is a son of privilege. Conversely, the heart of love, compassion and forgiveness is found in people at every station in life.

Poverty may contribute to instability on account of the sense of victimization it creates in the mind, but it is not the chief thing. Neither is the possession of land: with a positive attitude even landless refugees can make a new life for themselves and grow rich. On the other hand, religious passions can motivate a suicide bomber to give up his life, or a settler to place his family in harmís way.

Therefore, the human heart is the most important factor in peacemaking. Good will and trust are more effective in securing a nationís security than battalions of soldiers on the border. Hence, religious leaders have a great responsibility to move the peopleís hearts towards peace, as a precondition to successful political agreements.

Good will and trust are the most precious commodities for establishing peace. Political negotiations are fruitless when each side insists on pressing its maximum advantage; it is but a continuation of the struggle by diplomatic means. A peace process can be more fruitful when even one side has the attitude that it will yield a little here and there for the sake of establishing good will.

  1. Channel faith into peacemaking, not proselytizing

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." Since God is the Author of all religion, anyone who disparages someone elseís religion is denying the work of God and breaking the third commandment, not to take Godís name in vain. Quarrels among religions are one of the main reasons why people become atheists, as Jesus foresaw when he counseled against sectarianism, when he prayed concerning his followers, "that they may be perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent me." (John 17:23)

They days are long past when it is acceptable to regard outsiders of other faith communities as "infidels" and "heretics." In that mindset, the best way to love the outsider was to convert him. However, once we accept that God is the Author of all religions, we realize that proselytizing is not a true expression of love. Attempting to convert someone only demonstrates lack of respect for that personís religion and ignorance of Godís work through that religion.

Ignorance of how the name of God is universally honored throughout the cosmos leads people to make many mistakes. The heavens, which declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1), are not the property of only one religion. Hence the suicide bomber, having been misled by narrow-minded interpretations of religious texts, may awaken on the other side to discover that the very Jews he murdered are destined to be his companions. Would they leave him in peace to enjoy the company of the promised seventy dark-eyed virgins? The key element in the spiritual world is love. Those who learn to love well, and to love many different people, can live well there.

Instead of demonstrating faith by missionary efforts to win souls, now believers should channel their faith into efforts at peacemaking. God the Parent longs for peace among His children more than anything else. The barriers to peace are high and its foes are strong and ruthless; to surmount them we need today the same wonder-working faith that once liberated St. Paul from prison and saved Daniel from the lionís den. The battle for peace is best carried out by Jews, Christians and Muslims marching side-by-side, with love and forbearance to each other and strength against the causes of violence.

  1. Practice interfaith dialogue

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." Each of the Abrahamic faiths has its own sabbath day, when members of the community rest from their daily work to remember God. Ironically, these times of worship in synagogue, church and mosque can be the most segregated moments of the weekóand hence the furthest away from peace.

Today the Abrahamic faiths can better honor the holiness of God by joining together in interfaith dialogue. As God is present in a congregation of believers, He is a hundred times more so at occasions where believers of two or more religions are sharing their beliefs and their love.

Dialogue is an encounter, "heart to heart." It is a process that arises from empathy and compassion. Then comes discovery of the unexpected riches of the other's traditions, and surprising similarities with oneís own. This may lead to repentance for past wrongs and misunderstandings, or to forgiveness of the other for past mistreatment. It may lead to joint action to address common social problems.

Interfaith dialogue is not an academic exercise, restricted to elite leaders. Ordinary people should be encouraged to develop close relationships with people of other faiths. Synagogues, mosques and churches should devote several weeks every year to interfaith worship. Elementary school students should learn about the teachings, symbols and festivals of all the religions in the region. Such teaching of tolerance has become commonplace in America. We see glimmerings of it in Israel, in towns like Majd el-Krum and Karmiel where Israeli and Arab public school teachers meet to promote lessons on tolerance of each otherís culture. In this way, all people in the nation are continually reminded of the oneness of God.

  1. Lead with a parental heart

The fifth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother," originates in God, who is the Parent who governs the world. In human terms, we see parents as representing God in the household. Parents have the key role of setting the spiritual tone of the household and mediating disputes among the children. The parentsí heart is to want the best for all their children. They donít insist on a legalistic standard of equality, but tailor their love to their childrenís individual circumstances. If one child has a disability, they give him more attention and care than their other children, as love flows naturally to the lowest place. Also, parents want their children to live in harmony, and encourage their cooperation in chores and in play.

As God is the parent of all humankind, any leader who would rule according to the model of Godís sovereignty should do so with the heart of a parent. They should apply the same heart to governing the people as they care for their own children. In peacemaking as well, the mediator needs a parental heart to relate with both sides. He or she establishes solidarity with both parties as the foundation for mediating between them.

In ancient China, the emperor was called "the father and mother of the people." Muhammad taught, "The caliph is a shepherd over the people and shall be questioned about his subjects." Rev. Moon calls this idea "Parentism," and advocates the reform of democracy to incorporate this deeper content.

A Corrective to Democracy

Democracy developed out of the disappointment of living under corrupt kings, who ruled to enrich themselves while disregarding the peopleís welfare. Rejecting kingship for the principle of equality, democracy functions well when the people have brotherly love and share common values. However, in the absence of common interest and a cooperative spirit, democracy quickly degenerate into squabbles among competing special interests or even the tyranny of the majority.

Democracy is particularly ill suited to situations where very different populations are vying for power in the same land, as would be the case in a multi-ethnic state combining Israel and the Palestinian territories. The iron hand of demography lies heavy on any such solution, which most Israelis reject outright as dooming their aspirations to maintain a Jewish state. When sovereignty is decided by a numerical majority, a small population shift can lead to drastic changes, as took place in Lebanon in the 1980s.

Leadership with a parental heart can be more comprehensive than democracy, embracing people with diverse interests and attitudes and promoting a harmonious polity. A parental tradition of leadership, governing for the benefit of all groups, would preserve minority aspirations regardless of demographics. It could tailor policies to fit the needs of Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, secularists and religionists, rich and poor, based on the model of the state as a large household in which every member contributes out of their ability for the welfare of the whole.

  1. Let yourself be struck, rather than strike

"You shall not murder." Once we understand that spiritual factors are at the root of conflict, it becomes clear that violence does not solve anything. The defeated do not thereby lose the mind to hate. Even if they perish, their vengeful spirits continue to haunt the world. Only in those rare cases where the victors practice love and compassion for the defeated even in the midst of victoryóas America did towards Germany with the Marshall Planócan there be a good outcome, because only love can induce the defeated to realize that they were wrong and deserving of defeat.

On the other hand, as all the saints of religion know well, Godís strategy is to be struck first and then gain in the end. All the great founders of religion: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and their followers, suffered abuse, insults and mistreatment at the outset; yet this laid the foundation for the final victory. Enduring difficulties without rancor or complaint is the royal road to abundant blessings. "If any one strikes you on the right cheek," said Jesus, "turn to him the other cheek also." (Matt. 5:39) The Talmud praises those "who are insulted but do not insult others in revenge, who hear themselves reproached without replying." (Yoma 23a) Even in a marriage, when husband and wife quarrel, the wise person knows it is better to be "wrong" than to be "right." Forbearance in adversity is the antidote to violence.

  1. Establish the family as the school of love and peace

"You shall not commit adultery." God designed the family as the fundamental institution for forming human beings, especially as regards living for the sake of the other. Growing up first as children, then as brothers and sisters, then as spouses and finally as parents and grandparents, people experience ever-expanding spheres of love and learn to live according to the norms of each sphere. Children learn manners, respect for elders, kindness and cooperation with brothers and sisters, and responsibility towards younger siblings. Husband and wife learn what is required to protect and to yield. As parents, they learn the meaning of unconditional sacrifice for the sake of their children. A three-generation family is a small community in miniature. It should be able to train its members in all the qualities that make for good citizens.

This is why the seventh commandment, to not commit adultery, is fundamental to the health of any nation. Yet in todayís society, families are breaking down and the institution of marriage is being called into question. Some applaud this trend as maximization of freedom and liberation, while others lament the cost in coarsening values and loss of fine emotional sensitivity about love. The restoration of the family is a desideratum, but what sort of family?

Aside from the obvious problems of abuse and the loosening of moral norms, a less appreciated reason for the disruption of families is clannishness in the face of a cosmopolitan society. Traditional families often can carry ethnic prejudices. They oppose their members who venture out of their ethnic circle. Such families can stand in the way of peace, conserving boundaries that ought to be broken down.

Conversely, families that overcome ethnic prejudice and embrace the other in their midst can be great resources for peacemaking. This happens when a family member marries outside of the ethnic circle. Loving the enemy becomes a daily reality in families which have a spouse or in-laws from another religion, culture or ethnicity. The children learn tolerance and peace at the breakfast table. These families are the bedrock of a peaceful nation and world.

  1. Live for the sake of the other

"You shall not steal." In forming lasting relationships, the key is to live for the otherís sake. In a strong marriage, the wife puts her husband ahead of herself, and the husband likewise places his wifeís welfare above his own. Living for the sake of another requires accepting that person for who she is, her good points and bad points alike. It means to love that person even when the favor is not reciprocated. (Often, kindnesses at such difficult moments are the most appreciated later on.) This is true love; it can be summed up in the ethic of living for the sake of the other.

This requires us to turn 180 degrees from the customary self-centered way of life. We need, so we take, even steal from others for our own survivalóthat way of life creates only animosity and distrust. Giving to others, even when we ourselves are in need, is the heavenly way of peace. While it often seems that to give is to lose, eventually everything is returned manifold. The family member who is most serving and solicitous of the othersí welfare becomes the center of the family. A nation blessed with wealth should be generous and spend her wealth to uplift other nations; otherwise she will become the target of accusation and resentment, and her wealth will melt away.

This principle applies on every level: the individual, family, community, nation and world. It will not do for individuals to be sacrificial for the welfare of their family if the family is stingy about contributing to the community. Patriotism can call forth noble actions of public service and self-sacrifice, but if the nation only pursues its interests at the expense of other nations, then patriotism is degraded to ugly nationalism. Religions, likewise, should educate believers to live for the sake of other religions; otherwise, intolerance can invalidate the noblest religious virtues.

  1. Love your enemy

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." Godís family is indivisible. To regard another person as an enemy, as if he were not a brother or sister in Godís family, and then act with enmity towards that person, is to bear false witness against your neighbor.

The principle of living for the sake of other applies most especially to oneís enemy. Anytime people draw boundaries beyond which they will not serve, short of serving the whole global family, they fall short. Thus Jesus said, "Love your enemies" and the Qurían teaches, "It may be that God will ordain love between you and those whom you hold as enemies." (60.7) Esau came at Jacob with a small army, thirsty for blood, yet Jacob never forgot that Esau was his brother and offered him gifts to cool his anger.

Mahatma Gandhi gained Indiaís independence from Britain by steadfastly refusing to hate the British. Instead of treating them as oppressors, he developed a true kinship with the British people. He visited British cotton workers to explain why the people of India had chosen to weave their own cotton as a step towards independence. His nonviolence was always accompanied by the politics of love and respect, and by thus appealing to the British conscience, he won. He understood that the politics of non-violence was actually a gift to the humanity of the British people:

Having flung aside the sword, there is nothing except the cup of love which I can offer to those who oppose me. It is by offering that cup that I expect to draw them close to me. I cannot think of permanent enmity between man and man.

By following the example of Jacob and Gandhi, Israelis and Palestinians can develop peace movements characterized by love instead of hatred and fear, and which appeal to the conscience and humanity of the "enemy" who is in reality a neighbor and a brother.

  1. Reflect on yourself rather than accuse others "You shall not covet your neighborís houseÖ" One of the universal tenets of religion is to look at ourselves for the cause of problems rather than blame others. This is the message of the tenth commandment. Rather than expecting others to change for our sake, we should reflect on what changes we can make in our own behavior to improve the situation. This is sound advice in saving a marriage; it is equally valid in relationships between nations. When one side feels hurt, the most natural reaction is to point the finger at the other side. Nevertheless, there are two sides to every story. Accusations, even when valid, usually only stiffen the resistance of the other side. As Hillel said, "Do not judge your comrade until you have stood in his place." (Pirke Avot 2.5) Muhammad counseled a follower to "find fault with himself instead of finding fault with others."

From this perspective, the common slogan, "No Justice, No Peace," contains a fundamental error. While it is true that without justice there can be no lasting peace, making demands for justice is probably not helpful in attaining the goal. Even if the demand is correct, when it is made as an accusation, it only elicits a reaction by the other side in the form of self-justification. Rather, true justice arises when compassion and sympathy for the oppressed softens the heart of the oppressor. The way of humility and self-criticism, as well as living in accordance with all of these Ten Commandments, will create conditions of mutual trust and good will out of which grows sympathy, and from sympathy comes the restorative justice that only truly exists when the other party bestows it with a willing heart.

These 10 Commandments of Peacemaking should inform the work of the IIPC and its Ambassadors for Peace. They can orient us as we engage in practical activities for peace, so we will not deviate from the goal. The Word of God is sure the foundation of peace. Guided by its truth, we will have success.