The word peaceful is derived from the word: Peace. Peace describes a situation or condition in which there is no war, no violence, no fighting, no quarrelling, no disorderliness, no intolerance, no disagreement, no misunderstanding, no division, no disunity, and no hatred among individuals or groups in society. Therefore, the word peaceful describes a situation in which there is: Harmony, tranquility, quietness, calmness, love, forgiveness, friendship, understanding, tolerance, unity, law and order among individuals or groups in society.

To co-exist is to live together with others. It is to live together with people of different backgrounds, cultures, traditions, religions and political parties. When people live together in peace there is harmony, tranquility, quietness, calmness, love, forgiveness, friendship, understanding, tolerance, unity, law and order.

Therefore, peaceful co-existence means: Different people living together under the peaceful conditions described above. In Matthew 5:21-25, the Bible teaches us peaceful co-existence or how to live in peace with others. Anger and insult can lead to fighting which might result in the death of your friend or enemy. Therefore in order to live peacefully, we should avoid anger and insult. Also when we have a misunderstanding with someone, we should settle the misunderstanding with him so that there will be peace among us; otherwise he or she might take the case to court and we can be in trouble.

 

People desiring peaceful co-existence in the Bible

The Bible contains examples of people who desired peaceful co-existence. The stories of Abraham and Lot; Isaac and Abimelech; Esau and Jacob; and Philemon and Onesimus tell us about people who desired peaceful co-existence. The stories teach us how to live with others peacefully.

 

The story of Abraham and Lot (Genesis 3:1-8; 26:25-29): When God called Abraham to leave his country for the Promised Land, he went with his wife and his nephew, Lot with his wife, and their servants, and with all their property they could carry. When they reached the land of Canaan, they settled for sometime in a town called Shechem. Both of them became rich. They had plenty of cattle and workers to look after them.

After several years of grazing on the grass in Shechem, the grass was no longer enough for the cattle of Abraham and Lot. Their workers were always quarrelling among themselves over the little grass that was available. This did not bring about peaceful co-existence between Abraham and Lot, and Abraham was not happy about it.

Abraham wanted all of them to live in peace. Therefore, when he saw that there was plenty of grass in the valley of the River Jordan, near Sodom, he called Lot and showed him the rich grass in the Jordan valley and said:

“Let there be no strife between you and me, and between your workers and my workers, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land before you? Separate yourself from me. If you take the left land, I will go to the right; and if you take the right land, I will go to the left. ”

Lot looked around and chose the best part of the land in the valley of the River Jordan. Abraham agreed and Lot and his workers moved their cattle to the best part of the land. Abraham was left with the bad part of the land because he wanted peace. Now there was peaceful co-existence between the workers of Abraham and Lot.

 

The story of Isaac and Abimelech (Genesis 26:2-29): Isaac was the son of Abraham. After the death of Abraham, Isaac and his family went and lived in the land of the Philistines. The Philistine king was called Abimelech. The king gave Isaac and his family a place called Gerar to stay. God blessed Isaac and he became a rich farmer. He had many cattle, sheep and goats. Isaac lived peacefully with the Philistines.

The attitude of the Philistines changed towards Isaac when they saw that he was becoming richer and richer. They envied him and became envious of his increasing wealth. They wanted to fight him to take away all his property. Therefore, the Philistines tried to annoy Isaac so that he would fight them. They put sand into all the wells of Isaac so that his animals would die for lack of water to drink.

The Philistines waited for Isaac to get angry so that he would fight them. But Isaac was a man of peace who believed in peaceful co-existence. Therefore, he did not fight the Philistines. He simply took his family and animals to another place. He built new wells; but the Philistines came again and filled them with sand. Isaac did not quarrel or fight with them.

Isaac again moved to another place and built new wells. Now the Philistines were ashamed of what they had been doing to Isaac because he did not get angry or fight back. The king and his people came to Isaac and asked him to forgive them for the bad things they had done to him. Isaac forgave them and there was peaceful co-existence between them again.

 

The story of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 35:4-47): Esau and Jacob were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca. Esau was the elder of the two. As they grew up, Jacob who was very greedy cheated his elder brother, Esau on two occasions. On the first occasion, Esau was very hungry and wanted food to eat. He saw Jacob cooking porridge and wanted some to eat.

But Jacob agreed on the condition that he (Esau) would exchange the food for his birthright. The birthright is for the first son who inherited the wealth of the family when both parents died. Jacob was not the first son; but he wanted the property, and so he cheated Esau to get it.

The second occasion was when Isaac was about to die. He told Esau to prepare a good meal for him to eat so that he would bless him (Esau) before he died. But Rebecca over-heard Isaac’s request and since she loved Jacob more than Esau, she told Jacob to hurry and prepare a good meal for his father to receive the blessings meant for Esau. Jacob obeyed his mother and cheated his brother again.

Esau was very angry with Jacob for cheating him twice. He hated Jacob and wanted to kill him. Jacob ran away to their uncle Laban who lived in Haran. After many years, Jacob became wealthy. He married and had children. But whenever he remembered how he cheated his elder brother, he was not happy. Therefore, he decided to go back home with his family to make peace with Esau so that there would be peaceful co-existence between them again.

Jacob prayed to God to help him reconcile with his brother so that they would live in peace again. The moment Jacob saw Esau, he bowed down to the ground seven times till he came to him. In this way, Jacob humbled himself before his brother whom he had wronged. But Esau did not wait for Jacob to come to him. He ran to meet him and embraced him. He fell on his neck and kissed him, like an old friend. Both of them started weeping.

Jacob then gave Esau gifts to show that he had come in peace for them to live peacefully once again. At first, Esau refused to accept the gifts. But later he did, to show that he also wanted both of them to peacefully co-exist again.

 

The story of Philemon and Onesimus (Philemon): Philemon was a member of the early Church. He was a good friend of Apostle Paul. Philemon had a slave called Onesimus. There was peace between Philemon and Onesimus until the slave stole from his master and ran away to Rome. In Rome, he met Apostle Paul who converted him and, he became a Christian. He became a good person. He ran errands for Paul.

Onesimus became sorry for having stolen from his master (Philemon). He confessed his sin to Paul and asked for forgiveness.

Paul knew Philemon (Onesimus’ master) very well for they were good friends.

Paul was not happy that his friend (Philemon) was angry with his slave (Onesimus) for what he did to him. Paul therefore wrote Philemon a letter to bring the two of them (master and servant) back together so that there would be peaceful co-existence between them again. In the letter, Paul told Philemon how Onesimus had become a Christian and had changed for the better. Onesimus had felt ‘sorry’ for what he did and God had forgiven him. Therefore, he (Philemon) should welcome Onesimus back as a Christian brother and live peacefully with him again. When Philemon got the letter he was very happy, and lived peacefully with his slave (Onesimus) once again.

 

The need for Peaceful co-existence

We have learnt that peaceful co-existence is living peacefully with different people around us. There are several reasons why we desire peaceful coexistence. We desire peaceful co-existence because:

  1. We cannot avoid co-existence.
  2. There are problems arising from lack of peaceful co-existence, and
  3. We have to show the desire for peaceful co-existence.

 

1) We cannot avoid co-existence: We have to learn to co-exist or live together with our neighbours in our community. We cannot avoid them since we all live together in the same community. We see, greet, talk and mix with one another everyday. This happens at the bus stop, inside the bus, community centre, playing ground, market, school, farm, shops, offices, churches, mosques, hospitals or clinics. We make friends and sometimes marry within the community. We attend social functions such as naming ceremonies, birthday parties, weddings, funerals and festivals together.

In our community, we cannot avoid living with different kinds of people who have come to stay in order to go to school or work. First, we live with people from other tribes in Nigeria. For example, if we live in Lagos, Ibadan, Onitsha, Nsuka, Calabar, Jos, Kano, Katsina or Abuja, we may have as our neighbours Hausas, Fulanis, Igbos, Ibibios, Kalabaris, Tivs, Urhobos, Itsekiris, Binis and Ijaws. Second, we may live together with nationals from other African countries such as Ghana, Togo, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon and Ivory Coast, East Africa, North Africa and Southern Africa. Finally we may have nationals from other parts of the world such as Europe, America, Asia or Australia living together with us.

We also live in our community with people who worship God in ways different from ours. They may be Muslims, traditional worshippers, Hindus, or Buddhists.

Since we cannot avoid living together with different peoples as our neighbours, we have to learn to live peacefully with them so that there will always be peaceful co-existence. We have to learn to be tolerant to them, and show them love, kindness, affection, and sympathy. We help them when they are in trouble; we rejoice with them when they are happy and share their sorrows with them when they are bereaved. Doing such things helps us to live in unity and in peace.

 

2) There are problems arising from lack of peaceful co-existence: Problems arise from lack of peaceful co-existence when we behave wrongly towards our neighbours in the community in which we live. We behave wrongly when we are always:

  • Abusing, backbiting, insulting, kidnapping, quarrelling or fighting one another.
  • Disorderly and indisciplined.
  • Breaking the rules and regulations at home, school and in the community.
  • Showing disrespect to our parents, at home; prefects and teachers at school and elders in the community.
  • Bringing about disagreement and misunderstanding.
  • Encouraging tribalism, ethnicity and favouritism.
  • Promoting division, disunity, militancy, partiality and hatred (Ungovernability).
  • Upholding religious intolerance.

 

As a result of all these wrong behaviours towards our neighbours, we cannot provide the necessary conditions to work in peace. There is no love, forgiveness, friendship, understanding, tolerance, unity, law and order in the community. Society becomes ungovernable and people cannot go about their normal work in peace. There will be no progress and prosperity in a situation like this.

 

3) We have to show the desire for peaceful co-existence: Peaceful coexistence does not happen by chance. It is something that we have to labour and work hard to achieve. When there is disagreement or misunderstanding and one party is ready to fight to settle the problem, everything has to be done to avoid violence which can lead to the destruction of life and property. The rest will prevail upon them to calm down and use peaceful means to resolve the matter. These include the use of: ‘Dialogue’ or talking it over amicably; tolerance or showing understanding.

When there is disagreement or misunderstanding and we are ready to fight or resort to violence to resolve the issue and we listen to the good advice to use dialogue by talking the matter over amicably, we are showing the desire for peaceful co-existence.

When we are wronged by our friends and we are ready to retaliate by fighting them and we heed the good advice to forgive and reconcile with them, we are showing the desire for peaceful co-existence.

When we are provoked by a religious sect who are intolerant of our faith and have burned down our churches and instead of fighting back by destroying their place of worship we heed to the good advice not to reply intolerance with intolerance, we are showing the desire for peaceful co-existence.

When we are wronged by our friends and we are ready to retaliate by fighting them and we heed the good advice to forgive and reconcile with them, we are showing the desire for peaceful co-existence.

When we are provoked by a religious sect who are intolerant of our faith and have burned down our churches and instead of fighting back by destroying their place of worship we heed to the good advice not to reply intolerance with intolerance, we are showing the desire for peaceful co-existence.

When we have problems with the school authorities and we are all ready to take matters into our hands by going on strike, and we listen to the good advice to settle the matter peacefully with the school management, we are showing the desire for peaceful co-existence.

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