Selected by Jeremy Brooks, illustrated by Jude Daly,
Let There be Peace: Prayers from Around the World
Frances Lincoln, 2009.
The prayers for peace in this beautiful collection are drawn from many different traditions and times, one of the oldest being written by Lao-Tzu, the founder of Taoism in China 2,500 years ago. Some of the prayers, including a few written by children, are born out of conflict, one example being the extraordinarily humbling prayer that was found beside the body of a Jewish child in a German concentration camp in 1945, which “finds reasons to forgive”.
In his preface, Jeremy Brooks writes: “I hope this book of prayers will show that in many ways different religions have a great deal in common” and certainly, each of the Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, Sikh, Shinto, and Taoist voices represented here has the single purpose of praying for peace, whether between nations, between individuals, or in our own hearts. The power of the collection lies in the combination of the eclecticism of the prayers’ origins and their single common purpose: peace.
The visual impact of the book is no less striking than the prayers themselves: symbols of peace, such as the rainbow, the dove and the olive branch appear throughout, and contrast with images of war. Jude Daly’s uncluttered watercolors convey the emotional depth of the prayers without descending into sentimentality – and she also adopts some beautiful imagery, like in her depiction of Heaven and Earth, fittingly wearing kimonos to accompany a Japanese Shinto prayer. One double-page spread stands out particularly, with prayers written by South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Indian Jain monk, Satish Kumar, both of which “remind us that good can still triumph over bad.” On one side, two children are depicted, threatening each other in a barren wasteland; on the other, the same children can be seen playing together in the same landscape, now cared for and cultivated.
Let There be Peace has something to offer to children, and indeed adults, of all ages. It reminds us that people all over the world long for and pray for peace and provides a variety of templates for children to voice their own prayers. Indeed, this is not just a book about peace: it is itself a peace-making tool.