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Malcolm Doney

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. John 14.27

Contestants in beauty pageants used to give a standard answer when they were asked what they'd most want to see. World peace, they said. It's become a kind of cliché for the kind of unrealistic dream we'd all like to see fulfilled.

It's a strange word, peace. It can easily sound hollow, because it's about something that's not there. Peace is the absence of war, the lack of noise or the cessation of business, something you have when everything else has stopped. A bit of peace and quiet.

I'm lucky enough to spend half my week in the Suffolk countryside. I like nothing better than to wake at first light. There's no traffic, no phone calls, no demands. All I can hear is birdsong. There's an irony here. The birdsong comes from creatures who are pelting about making their nests, looking for mates and defending their territory. This isn't a peaceful time for them. Their well-being is dependent on people like us, planting trees and hedges and, in hard times, putting out food.

Peace from conflict rarely simply breaks out. Wars end, usually, as the result of protests, lobbying, negotiation, political pressure and fatigue. Peace comes from hard work and struggle.

Jesus once said, 'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.' This was someone who challenged the status quo, threw the moneychangers out of the temple, and was put to death for his trouble. Peace comes at a price. Peace is not simply the absence of conflict, it's something tangible that we build by caring for our surroundings, stepping in to help resolve arguments, by learning to see our enemies as they see us. I'm no Miss World, but I do want to see world peace, or at least in my corner of it, so I'd better get to work.