An interview with Johann Christoph Arnold, author of Seeking Peace
It is a simple truth: We all seek peace, even if we don’t realize we are actively looking for it. To seek peace, suggests Johann Christoph Arnold, means nothing more than finding purpose in your life. It’s a universal quest that transcends religious faith. A prolific author who has met with many of the world’s religious leaders, Johann Christoph Arnold wrote Seeking Peace to offer direction for finding a purpose that will make our lives meaningful.
How can we find harmony within ourselves?
My message to people is: “Get busy. You are only young once. Find purpose in your life, and use your life to do something constructive.” Too many people are wasting their lives. Society could be so much more constructive. Every act of love and service has a ripple effect. Like the ripples caused by a small pebble thrown into a lake, one act of love spreads to many people. It takes only one stone to start an avalanche -- one human being’s life can make a difference. You might not see the difference in your lifetime, but through service to other people you leave a legacy behind when you leave this world.
How do paradoxes relate to peace?
Jesus said, “I come not to bring peace but a sword.” That might sound contradictory because Jesus’ main message was love. But love always brings confrontation because it demands change, and people are afraid to change. That’s a paradox.
Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was a crusader for peace. He informed the world about the killings in his country, and like other great leaders who have fought for peace, Romero was assassinated. But Oscar Romero was the voice and conscience of El Salvador, and he left a legacy for the people of his country and the world. His assassination sparked a movement for equality and peace that still continues today. That’s a paradox.
Similarly, Mahatma Gandhi devoted his life to nonviolence and was assassinated. Yet the result was the liberation of his people. His influence and his principles of peace are still followed by people today.
How does forgiveness relate to peace?
Forgiveness is powerful. For example, I know people whose family members were murdered. Instead of wanting revenge, they forgave the murderer and decided to work with the families of other murder victims, and even with the murderers on death row, to bring about reconciliation. Jesus told us to love our enemies because love overcomes tension and violence.
I frequently visit “hot spots,” such as Palestine’s West Bank where I have witnessed the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs. And I know that peace will only come out of one-to-one-relationships. It won’t be because of peace agreements or other political actions. Peace will come where there is a Jew and a Muslim who forgive each other.
What do you mean by “abundant life”?
An abundant life means you have found peace, you have found forgiveness, and you are not afraid to die. It’s important to remember that every human being is important. We all lead busy lives. We rush from one appointment to the next, and we don’t take time for each other. Maybe your child will come up to you when you are involved in something, and you’ll say, “Don’t bother me now. I’m too busy.” Instead, why not take a few minutes and ask what you can do to help your child? It brings a satisfaction that money can’t buy. And it reduces fear and brings happiness and security.
As a people we are so materialistic. We have so much junk, so many possessions, but we always want more. And we become busier and busier. Families often don’t have mealtimes together anymore. There is no time for our children, unless it's their birthday party or some other special occasion. We are missing out on the most important things in life.
Albert Einstein once said that if you want your child to be brilliant, read him a fairy tale, and if you want your child to be still more brilliant, read still more fairy tales. In our society we want to put children on the fast academic track. We want to make children into miniature adults and we don’t allow them to be children. That spells disaster.
What is your most important piece of advice?
Love people. Give yourself an open invitation to treasure everyone you meet. Every person is unique -- you will find no other exactly like that one person. You can always learn something from other people that will enrich your life. It doesn’t matter who that person is. Whether homeless or a millionaire, each person is a human being. There’s something valuable in each and every one of us.
Seeking Peace by Johann Christoph Arnold is available from Amazon.com.