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Department of peace

In mid-February, budget slashers in Congress unexpectedly took the ax to the U. S. Institute of Peace. Forty Democrats joined the Republican majority in the House to cut off all funding for the USIP--a potentially devastating blow to the bipartisan institute that was started under President Reagan and funded mostly by Congress. It is up to the Senate to salvage the work of this institute.

The USIP's $44 million annual operating budget is dwarfed by the State Department's $54 billion--not to mention the $583 billion that goes each year to the Department of Defense. But the small cost of the USIP pays great dividends. The USIP directly benefits American troops in places like Afghanistan by helping resolve conflicts, and it is active in Baghdad and other hot spots around the world. It's been estimated that the entire budget of the USIP amounts to the cost of keeping 40 soldiers in Afghanistan for one year.

As was reported in the Century, USIP staff have been especially skilled in recognizing how religious faith can be a source of reconciliation, not just conflict. The USIP exemplifies the best sort of leadership that the U.S. can offer the world-a leadership based not on weapons but on a deep understanding of the sources of conflict. The nation's budget-cutting is foolish and indiscriminate if it erases the work of the USIP.

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It's All About Peace

I have always liked the thought that if a nation has a department of war, it might make sense to have a department of peace, too. But we don't, which makes me wonder why. That whole "wondering why" process can be very constructive for me.

What does a war department do? It trains people. It collects and deploys resources. It sets objectives, strategies, and tactics. Kind of the whole "how do we manage war" thing.

What would a peace department do? Until the last line, pretty much the same thing. That last line is a big one, though. The focus is on how we manage peace.

When I think of it in those terms, the entirety of the government function (except for the war department?)becomes the department of peace. How sad it is that most of the time we do not recognize that as the driving force in a government of, by, and for the people. That is, perhaps, where the usefulness of an institute for peace comes in. It makes us think about peace. It makes us order ourselves for peace. We look for training and resources in peace. We become a government and a people of peace makers.

See how constructive that "wondering why" process can be? The thought of conscientiously making peace an integral part of every aspect of government is exciting, and realizing that peace is at the very core of every part of civilized government is downright inspiring.

I hope that the institute for peace will continue to receive funding. If it doesn't though, or if its funding is curtailed, I would encourage readers to visit usip.org. See what it is really about. See how it promotes peace. Find ways to step up and participate in the peace process, too.

Peace is not a political mission. It is a fruit of the Spirit, and it is a Christian duty. This is another Christian century. Share the peace of Christ.

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