Book Reviews


News from Wayne

Points to Ponder

Just Peacemaking: Ten Practices For Abolishing War

Edited by Glen Stassen

The Pilgrim Press, 1998, 2004

The most important book for peace making I have ever read. Originally published in 1998 (The Pilgrim Press), the second edition was printed in 2004 with the introduction revised to reflect changes in the world since September 11, 2001. The twenty-three scholars who contributed to this book reflect a rich diversity in education, experience and perspective. They show the reality of a third alternative (Just Peacemaking) to the Christian poles of pacifism and Just War Theory when exploring the nature of war.

The introduction is not simple reading, but exceptional. This should be mandatory reading for anyone interested in being a peacemaker in the world today. Find a quiet room and set aside a couple of hours in an afternoon or evening to absorb their words in this 36 - page document.

The ten chapters are broken down into three sections, those being:

Part 1 - Peacemaking Initiatives

1) Support Nonviolent Direct Action

2) Take Independent Initiatives to Reduce Threat

3) Use Cooperative Conflict Resolution

4) Acknowledge Responsibility for Conflict and Injustice;

Part 2 - Justice

5) Advance Democracy, Human Rights and Religious Liberty

6) Foster Just and Sustainable Economic Development;

Part 3 - Love and Community

7) Work with Emerging Cooperative Forces in the International System

8) Strengthen the United Nations and International Efforts for Cooperation and Human Rights

9) Reduce Offensive Weapons and Weapons Trade

10) Encourage Grassroots Peacemaking Groups and Voluntary Associations

Buy, borrow or steal (just kidding) this book. “Mapping a course for individuals, grassroots groups, voluntary associations, and religious organizations - and showing people how to fan the flames of peace - this book challenges pacifists to be peacemakers and just war theorists to spell out the resorts that should be tried before the last. It explores our intentions to restore a just and enduring peace - and what we must do to live up to those intentions.” (from the back cover)


Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths

By Bruce Feiler

William Morrow, 2002

This is a wonderful, thought-provoking book about the spiritual father of three world religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The book is an easy read and helps members of each of these religious traditions (as well as those of other or no religious tradition) to see how Abraham is viewed by their own and the other religions who claim Abraham as their father. I particularly enjoyed and found enlightening the sections regarding how our Muslim brothers and sisters relate to Abraham from the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament and passages from the Ko'ran. For anyone interested in the inter-religious dialogue between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, this is a great start.



Living Buddha, Living Christ

By Thich Nhat Hanh

Riverhead Books, 1995

Thich Nhat Hanh is a special person - a Buddhist monk and teacher from Viet Nam who first gained attention during the 1960's for his voice of peace and reason in a time of war and conflict. He came to the United States and met with many religious leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Daniel Berrigan and Thomas Merton. The author of over 20 books, this is a wonderful, simple, yet profound book which shows many similarities between Christianity and Buddhism. Hanh writes: “People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.”

At less than 200 pages, this is a short, easy read which can be finished in a long evening but ought to be read slowly, meditatively, to let his words be truly absorbed by your mind and soul.


The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Class of Civilizations

By Jonathan Sacks

Continuum, 2002, 2003

Jonathan Sacks has been the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since 1991. In this brilliant book Rabbi Sacks outlines a way for different religions to live alongside one another in peace and harmony. The words from the preface to his second edition alone are worth the price of the book:

“I see in the rising crescendo of ethnic tensions, civilization clashes and the use of religious justification for acts of terror, a clear and present danger to humanity. For too long, the pages of history have been stained by blood shed in the name of God. Allied to weapons of mass destruction, extremist religious attitudes threaten the very security of life on earth. In our interconnected world, we must learn to feel enlarged, not threatened, by difference.”



War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning

By Christ Hedges

Public Affairs, 2002

Christ Hedges is a former war correspondent who has covered wars and insurgencies in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Columbia, the West Bank and Gaza, the Sudan and Yemen, Algeria, Punjab, the Gulf War, the Kurdish rebellion in southeast Turkey and Northern Iraq, the war in Bosnia and Kosovo. He has seen more violence, bloodshed and war than anyone ever should have to, and writes about it with power and force. This is a great book for anyone interested in becoming a peacemaker in helping them learn some of the issues which drive war.

"When Christ disarmed Peter in the garden, he disarmed all Christians."