When we look at other African countries plagued by wars similar to those in Kenya (such as tribal conflicts), those who have attained peace (albeit an imperfect peace) had to pay a great price for that peace. Come to think of it, the fight for peace is really a fight for freedom, and it is only when freedom is attained that peace is consequently realized. All men desire peace, but very few of us ever bother to think about the cost of peace. The price that Kenyans had to pay for freedom is that same price that we have to pay for peace today. Peace walks, placards, graffiti, concerts and conferences are all welcome approaches, but they are often insufficient. In the world we are living in, the reality and effects of sin cannot be denied.
PEACE ISN’T FAIR
The human heart is bent on chaos, and all the places that claim any semblance of peace, only claim so because violence is suppressed, not because people have willingly conceded to be peaceful. We may currently admire Rwanda for its peaceful streets, but we cannot ignore the heightened security, and the high number of security officers at every street corner in the country.
In this world, as long as sin remains, the most effective solution to the peace problem is not dialogue, but the law. Of course, peace that is attained through suppression of violence is not true peace. But it is a visible, external peace, a preliminary peace if you like. Peace does not mean that people have nothing to fight about, peace means that people choose (or are made) not to fight. Peace, like forgiveness, means giving up the right to hurt others for hurting you. It means not repaying evil for evil. It means withholding justice. Yes, peace on this fallen earth isn’t fair.
Peace means that, if your opponent used illegal means to win the election, you suppress your desire to repay evil for evil. Instead, you opt to use the legal means to secure justice. There’s no guarantee that the courts, the peaceful protests, the strikes and the boycotts will be effective. In fact, much evidence in Kenya (especially concerning elections) points to the contrary. In 2007, if the begrudged candidates and their supporters had opted for peaceful marches instead of machetes, chances are that Kibaki would still be the president today and we would have no Coalition Government or a Prime Minister. We know the weaknesses in our legal system, and we are too impatient for the peaceful alternatives. That is why we opt to take matters into our violent hands. We know that peace isn’t fair.
COUNTING THE COST
If we are to attain true peace, Kenyans need to count the cost, and many of us need to be ready to lose what is rightfully ours. This may mean that we be ready to be ruled by a leader we did not vote for, a corrupt and a vote-stealing leader. Kenyans must count the cost of making do with a leader whom, under a perfect system, could not have emerged the winner. I am not saying that Kenyans embrace apathy and inaction, I am saying that we have to count the cost of our failed attempts at peacefully pursuing justice. We have to be ready to live with the violent consequences of injustice. Bob Greene, a CNN columnist, speaks of the cost that has always and inevitably preceded peace:
“Is there a word in the English language that is more welcome, more highly cherished? That is more likely to be greeted with exhilaration and prayerful relief by all who see it? Nearly every desire a person, or a nation, can have is embodied in that single syllable.
All the lightness and all the shadows, all the wars waged at terrible costs, all in pursuit of peace. To get to such a state of harmony has never been a peaceful journey.
There is a dichotomy intrinsic to wars waged in pursuit of peace — an uneasy divide between lightness and shadows. Tranquility born of bloodshed; happiness the end result of horror. We don’t like to think too much about that, and no wonder. The truth behind it goes against our better nature.”
PEACE VERSUS JUSTICE
We like to look at the fight for peace always as an external fight. But true peace is internal, and that means that the real war is also internal. And it is always a tug of war between peace and justice. Instead of taking another man’s life for the sake of justice, are you willing to lose your own life for the sake of peace? Instead of committing a lesser evil for the sake of attaining a tainted justice, are you willing to commit no evil for the sake of peace? The conflict between peace and justice cannot be ignored. Oftentimes, the two are pitted against each other. In a Godless society where all moral values are relative, such a choice may seem unfair. But God offers us a way out.
In the Bible, God addresses both peace and justice in two verses that are strategically placed next to each other. Concerning peace, He tells us “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Rom 12:18). And in the next verse, He addresses Justice; “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”
This is the only true, noble and acceptable violence of peace, friends.
THE VIOLENCE OF PEACE
The violence of peace means that we have to do [the good] that we do not want to do in order to attain [the good] that we want. It means that we have to suffer to alleviate suffering. We have to die to prevent death. We have to lose in order to gain. In any other world, such notions of peace sound like oxymorons. Yet, this is the only true definition of peace.
Our choice, therefore, is not one between violence and peace, but one between godly violence and ungodly violence for the sake of peace. Ungodly violence is external; aimed at those who offend us. Godly violence is internal; absorbed by those who are offended. Ungodly violence seeks to invoke illegal justice in order to attain peace. But godly violence seeks to attain peace legally at [what appears to be] the cost of justice. Yet, justice is not really ultimately abandoned when we choose leave matters in God’s hands, it is only relegated to the only true justifier.
For those without God, the ultimate justifier may be the legal system, which may or may not always serve justice. The government is a feeble foundation on which to place your ultimate hope for peace. But for those who are in Christ, we can rest in the confidence that God is the perfect justifier. All the unrighteous will eventually receive their just reward. So, we don’t mind doing whatever it takes, as far as it is not sinful, to pursue peace.
Because we are aware that the true price of peace is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ. And it is in the violence of His death that we have any hope for ultimate internal and external peace on earth, as it is in heaven.