“If you want peace, work for justice.”
This famous quote comes from Pope Paul VI’s address for the Day of Peace in 1972, and touches on the important connection between peace and justice. As we are faced with many challenges that threaten peace and justice in our present day, the words of Pope Paul still ring out with the strength of truth.
We all want to see a more peaceful and just world, but what will it take to get us there? A great place to begin answering this question is with a more comprehensive understanding of global peace and justice and their relationship to one another.
Working toward Global Peace and Global Justice
Peace and justice are common words. We use them in our workplaces, in our homes and in everyday interactions. They help us to describe the state of our souls or to illuminate our sense of being wronged. Every human has personally experienced the meaning of these words through their sense of well-being or unease and anger.
Peace and justice are also global words. They express something we look for in the world at large. We long to see them present in global economies and societies. We want the whole world to be at peace and the whole world to operate in justice.
Why do these concepts seem inextricably linked? Let’s explore the meaning and relationship between these key concepts and look at some of the ways peace and justice are violated in the world today.
What’s the Connection Between Peace and Justice?
The connection between peace and justice is intrinsic. Peace is an indication that the current state of affairs (interiorly in the case of a person’s mind or soul or exteriorly between peoples or nations) is harmonious and properly ordered. It is a state of tranquility, a sense that “all’s right with the world.”
Here’s how Pope Paul VI explains it:
“It is difficult, but essential, to form a genuine idea of Peace. It is difficult for one who closes his eyes to his innate intuition of it, which tells him that Peace is something very human. This is the right way to come to the genuine discovery of Peace: if we look for its true source, we find that it is rooted in a sincere feeling for man. A Peace that is not the result of true respect for man is not true Peace. And what do we call this sincere feeling for man? We call it Justice.”
According to Pope Paul VI, justice is a sincere feeling toward the other.
A nation with a sincere feeling toward a marginalized group living within its borders will not oppress, persecute or drive them out. A person with a sincere feeling toward another person will not steal from them, cheat them or spread rumors about them. People with sincere feelings toward themselves will treat themselves with respect and kindness.
By Pope Paul’s explanation, sincerity is something we owe each other by virtue of our worth as human beings. Any action or state of being that diminishes or does not recognize our human value is unjust.
How to Establish Peace and Justice in the World
When the state of the world feels uneasy, it can be difficult to know what to do or where to turn. Our own actions may not seem like enough, and yet—we are called to speak out against injustices in the world. There are many simple ways each of us can work to establish peace and justice in the world. Here are three simple things you can do right now:
- Speak out when we see injustices. Sometimes all it takes to begin building a more peaceful and inclusive society is one person who is willing to stand up for what is right.
- Take action to overcome our own barriers. When we treat ourselves with love and kindness we are bringing more peace into our own lives, which we can in turn share with others.
- Offer up prayers. The power of prayer can change the hearts of people all over the world and bring them greater peace. It can also soften our own heart to be more attentive to the needs of our suffering brothers and sisters.
Prayer is the most powerful tool we have. It allows God to enter our heart and fill us with his love. Consider adding the following prayer into your daily reflections:
Prayer for Peace and Justice in the World
"Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace, who are yourself our peace and reconciliation, who so often said, 'Peace to you,' grant us peace. Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice, and brotherly love. Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace. Enlighten our leaders that they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace. May all peoples of the earth become as brothers and sisters. May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all." —Saint John XXIII
Learn More About the Relationship Between Peace and Justice
Divine Word Missionaries work passionately to address issues related to peace and justice and to help those who are most affected by conflict. From our work fighting human trafficking to our work supporting migrants and refugees, we are confronting sources of conflict and attempting to bring true and lasting peace.