What will it take to find peace?

There was an intriguing story involving chocolate told by Rev. Doug Brown during the Remembrance Day service at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Cobourg last Sunday that deserves repeating. (For those in attendance, no notes were taken. So please forgive any minor variances.)

During the children’s lesson, Rev. Brown invited about a half dozen kids to the front. He told them to hold out their hands as he placed three M&Ms in each one. They were to immediately cover the three candies so they could not see them. Then, he asked each one: What is your favorite color? Yellow. Blue. Green. Red. Then, without hesitating, they were to pop the candies into their mouths, again, without looking.

Can you tell me, what colour are you eating?  he asked

Nobody knew.

You see, despite the colour of the coating, there are no flavours in it. All you can taste is the chocolate inside, he said.

Just like the candies, we may be different on the outside, but inside we are all the same, he said.

So, as we reflect on all the conflicts around the world, we realize the first steps towards peace is realizing what we have in common and build from there.

It was a poignant message delivered to the congregation. In a week, where a Muslim American went on a killing rampage at the Fort Hood military base in Texas, leaving 13 dead and 29 wounded, the shock, pain and suffering are immeasurable.

To watch the families of victims, is heart-wrenching. To hear the stories of heroics, it brings a sense of awe as police, fellow soldiers and others responded in the face of death.

It will be some time before the public will know what motivated the alleged shooter, Army Major Nidal M. Hasan. With speculation rampant, already there are allegations of Islamic extremism, mental instability and muffled innuendo of terrorism.

We are also learning there were signals before hand, as his personal views, his behaviour and other action suggested he needed help.

It is easy to look at this troubled man from a distance. But, like colour coating, we are only seeing the surface. And, in an environment of heated rhetoric, it is far simpler to make the leap in logic that fuels unnecessary racism, hatred and further stereotypes all Muslims.

A knee-jerk reaction is the very thing that drives the hatred behind world conflict. In Canada, we are most familiar with Afghanistan. But there is Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, the occupied Palestinian territory and so on. There are approximately 40 million people living in these areas suffering in the face of armed conflict.

The children’s message is a plain one. Some might argue it is naive to extrapolate any kind of sophisticated argument around ending world conflict using such a story. It fails to grasp at the complexity of geopolitics.

Yet, it is in the simplicity where the wisdom is found.

On CBC Sunday Edition, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams discussed his idea for a united Ireland. Once a terrorist for the IRA, he became a political leader and helped negotiate the 1998 Good Friday Peace Accord. During the interview, Adams praised his greatest foe, Ian Paisley, leader of the Protestant Irish unionists. It was striking to hear Adams talk in such glowing terms, when only 20 years ago both men could not spew enough vitriol at each other.

Somehow, Adams has looked inside the heart of his bitter enemy to find a means to go forward in peace to rebuild Ireland. How can those lessons be used to end the suffering of millions, reduce world conflict and find compassion in the face of the tragedy of Fort Hood.

Maybe we can begin with the heart of a child and a handful of candy.

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