Dr. James McGinnis is the co-founder and current program director of the Institute for Peace and Justice and international coordinator of the Parenting for Peace and Justice Network. He is the author of many books and programs for educators, families, parishes/congregations, religious communities, and pastoral ministers. With his wife, Kathleen, he was the co-recipient of the Pax Christi USA's "Teacher of Peace" award in 1995.
In this accessible and practical paperback, McGinnis has pulled together prayers for peace; he uses the word shalom "the biblical concept that includes the realization of justice for all and harmony with the earth and all of God's creatures." There are many obstacles to this great goal war, racism, poverty, sexism, and other forms of domination and oppression.
In the introduction McGinnis describes his task: "Praying for peace involves holding the world in our hands and hearts as the instruments of God's merciful love. Prayer is a way of wrapping our hearts around all of God's children. It involves opening our eyes and hearts to the images, faces, and stories of violence, as well as hope, standing at the foot of the cross as Mary did and not turning away." As you read these prayers, the author suggests some kind of fasting as a means of demonstrating solidarity with the many victims of violence and injustice around the globe. He also invites us to find a quiet place to pray, use a globe or pictures to enhance our imagery, light a candle, and carry a symbol to remind us of those we are praying for during the day.
McGinnis has organized this resource around the months of the year with emphasis on the anniversary of significant peacemaking or violent events in various countries, including Haiti, Sri Lanka, Burma, the Brazilian Amazon, Kosovo, Iraq, Darfur, and Kenya. There are also prayers for ending racism, the death penalty, and violence against women. McGinnis lists additional resources wherever possible including organizations to contact, videos available, and websites. Here is a sample prayer from Joan Chittister:
"Prayer for World Peace Great God, who has told us 'Vengeance is mine,' save us from ourselves; save us from the vengeance in our hearts and the acid in our souls. Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt, to punish as we have been punished, to terrorize as we have been terrorized. Give us the strength it takes to listen rather than to judge, to trust rather than to fear, to try again and again to make peace even when peace eludes us.
"We ask, O God, for the grace to be our best selves. We ask for the vision to be builders of the human community rather than its destroyers. We ask for the humility as a people to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples. We ask for the love it takes to bequeath to the children of the world to come more than the failures of our own making. We ask for the heart it takes to care for all the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq, of Israel and Palestine, as well as for ourselves.
"Give us the depth of soul, O God, to constrain our might, to resist the temptations of power, to refuse to attack the attackable, to understand that vengeance begets violence, and to bring peace not war wherever we go. For you, O God, have been merciful to us. For you, O God, have been patient with us. And so may we be merciful and patient and gracious and trusting with these others whom you also love. This we ask through Jesus, the one without vengeance in his heart. This we ask forever and ever. Amen."