Matthew chapter 5 verse 9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God”.   The word Peace is used frequently throughout the scriptures to describe God Himself, while the Christian message is ‘the Gospel of Peace’.

In Jesus’ teaching ‘peace’ is an almost tangible element. It is his gift to his disciples. Paul describes God as the God of peace, the Christian message is called the ’gospel of peace’ and peace is one of the ‘fruits of the Spirit’.

You may have heard the word ‘shalom’ used for peace in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. It is a very close cousin of the Arabic word Salaam.  The Biblical concept of peace is not just the absence of war.  It includes peace with God, positive harmony and healthy relationships between people.  It involves spiritual as well as material security. Peace is a state of true wholeness, a state of well-being.

The Biblical picture of the coming age of Shalom is not just about an age without war (“swords will be beaten into ploughshares”) but one where traditional enemies live in total harmony (“the wolf shall lie down with the lamb”) and their leaders govern with wisdom, understanding and justice (Isaiah chapter 2 verses 2-4 and chapter 11 verses 1-9).  Peace, in the sense of total well-being for the whole of creation, is the ultimate goal; this includes harmony between people, harmony between people and God, and harmony between humankind and the whole created order.

Peace is often linked with the word ‘righteousness’ in the Bible—an indication that peace does not come automatically because, in order for there to be true peace in the world there must first be true justice for all. Christians are called to share in Christ’s work of restoring this peace and wholeness.

Jesus told us not to worry or be concerned about material things for God knows our needs. Anxiety is a denial of peace.   However this is a message people constantly have to re-learn as it does not seem to come naturally—our temperaments and our culture often means that our natural reactions in a situation are hostility and suspicion rather than Peace.

Peace in School

In the school context peacemaking actions can include everything from conflict resolution to creating times and places for stillness and reflection.

Ethos

  • Who are the peacemakers in your school?  How are pupils encouraged to be peacemakers and given the skills to take on this role?
  • Is the atmosphere the school engenders one of deep peace, or uneasy truce?
  • How are conflicts resolved between pupils and between adults?  Is there a consistency of approach?
  • Does the school have quiet spaces (for adults and children)? Are there reflection corners or spiritual gardens?  Does the school environment promote peace?
  • How does the school support the healing process for families or pupils experiencing trauma?
  • Is peace in your school partnered with justice?
  • How does the school deal with aggression?
  • What contribution does your Christian ethos make to a peace filled school?

Worship

  • Does worship include frequent opportunities for quiet reflection?
  • Do you foster peaceful styles of worship as well as the dynamic and lively?
  • Have you explored the theme of peace in your worship?
  • Do you use greetings in worship such as ‘The peace of the Lord be always with you’?  How are pupils helped to understand these expressions?

Curriculum

  • How do methods of classroom management foster peaceful classrooms?
  • How do different methods of teaching and learning foster co-operation and mutual support?
  • Do pupils have the opportunity to learn about some of the world’s peacemakers (Nelson Mandela, Gandhi)?
  • Have you looked at the various images for peace found in the Bible and elsewhere to support your thinking on creating peaceful communities?

Leadership

  • Is there pastoral care for the staff?  Does your church support you with this?
  • Who can anxious people turn to in a ‘no blame’ culture?
  • What training is given to help resolve conflicts within the school in an appropriate and skilful manner?
  • Is your school community whole and healthy?  What strategies can you use to promote a peaceful and harmonious community in your school?