Revelation is by nature something new being shown to the world or conceivably something being seen that has always been present. Perhaps that is precisely what a prophetic vision lets us experience. The prophet sees something yet unseen by others. Jewish tradition envisions a wondrously hopeful way of seeing the future. The Hebrew prophet Isaiah had such experiences, and his experiences have been foundational sources for the Jewish journey throughout the ages. Isaiah saw a time when swords will be turned into plowshares, when instruments of war will be at long last transformed into resources for nurturance.
The squandering of trillions upon trillions of dollars have been, and continue to be, the initial price we pay for our ability to overpower one another in brutal, murderous acts of war. This happens as millions of our fellow human beings suffer for lack of a meal, suffer for lack of education, suffer for lack of medicines, and the list goes on. Each of these sufferings could be ended if only our global financial resources would be redirected from weaponry to peacebuilding resources. If only the brilliance of science would be directed toward solving these causes of suffering rather than utilizing the thought and energies of the mind to create ever more powerful instruments of war and destruction, our world would be brought so much closer to Isaiah’s vision.
Perhaps President Dwight D. Eisenhower said it best seventy years ago in his famous “Chance for Peace” speech.
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
Perhaps Eisenhower saw what Isaiah saw nearly three thousand years earlier. How much blood has been spilled over these thousands of years? How many deprivations have robbed fellow human beings of the basic needs for survival and left them to die through sickness and wars?
Isaiah’s words provide us with a worldview that says we are not endlessly trapped in this horrifically violent dynamic. The Jewish worldview, based on his prophetic vision, declares that we will evolve into a time when at long last we will turn from this terrible way of destroying life and instead become caretakers of one another by transforming our resources toward positive healing and creative uses.
The psalmist says, “Turn from evil and do good, seek peace and pursue it.” Are we ready to begin that transformation?
Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin, Professor Steven Shankman (UNESCO Chair in Transcultural Studies, Interreligious Dialogue and Peace at the University of Oregon), and Raimy Khalife-Hamdan (Scoville Peace Fellow and Assistant to the UNESCO Chair at Oregon) will be offering a vision for a United Nations’ program called “SWORDS INTO PLOWSHARES” at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. This program says “yes” to Isaiah’s words that are prominently etched into a wall across from the United Nations.
“…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2-4)
This program envisions recruiting U.N. member nations to diminish their military budgets by an initial mere 1% and to deposit those funds into a U.N. Peacebuilding Fund for the purpose of addressing the causes mentioned above as well as the crisis of global climate change, which is continuing to unleash its destructive, awesome power.
Current military budgets soar due to the massive power of the military industrial complex against which President Eisenhower warned. There is already sufficient weaponry to destroy our planet many times over.
A mere 1% of conversion of these funds will only begin to address the many problems we currently face as a human family. But 1% is a start, enough to set-up the mechanism for this program and to give the first sweet taste of transforming our world in the direction of Isaiah’s ancient prophecy.
In the coming years and decades, a steady increase in the percentage of redirected resources will allow the nations of the world to experience the joy and wonder of true peacebuilding as suffering is alleviated and as life becomes ever more livable.
Rabbi Yitzhak Husbands-Hankin, Professor Steven Shankman, and Raimy Khalife-Hamdan invite you to join them at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago on Monday, August 14th at 3:00pm to learn more about this program and get involved.
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