“I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”

Edward Everett Hale

Friday, 15 February 2013

When will there be peace?

Ten years ago today, the largest ever anti-war rally in history took place, as millions of people in sixty countries expressed their opposition to the imminent war with Iraq. In spite of this, the war began on 20th March.

It is now well over fifty years since World War II, but since then, not a single day has passed in which there was not a war going on somewhere in the world - whether it was called a civil war or a "police action".

War is an expensive business, in every sense of the word. If all the money currently spent on defence were to be channelled into education, health and welfare; into feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, what a different world this would be.

If we reject the concept of war altogether, the alternative is pacifism. In the 1930s, an Anglican minister named Canon Dick Sheppard founded the Peace Pledge Union. Tens of thousands of people joined it, pledging never again to wage war. In her autobiography Testament of Experience,  Vera Brittain reports a discussion with her husband, George Catlin, on the issue of pacifism:

Vera Brittain

 Catlin wrote: "I will not stop to inquire whether pacifism as an absolute principle is sound. In measurable time you will not convert to it the majority of this great nation. and therefore (whatever one's private view) it will not, as a public fact, avert war."

Brittain argues that "the same argument applied to all forms of revolutionary teaching, costly and often dangerous to its interpreters, which visualised life in terms of a society still to come. The fallibe Apostles could never have hoped to convert the great Roman Empire to Christ's doctrines "in measurable time". But surely few would now say that the early Christian Church should have abandoned its task as too difficult, even though neither the lands once ruled by Rome nor the rest of humanity were converted even yet?"

She went on to join the Peace Pledge Union, and bore witness for peace for the rest of her life, often at considerable personal cost.

And yet, and yet. I have blogged before about my feelings about pacifism: "To fight or to take a pacifist line is one of the deepest and starkest choices of personal conscience. Is pacifism a cause worth fighting for? What a paradox. I speak as one who has a fairly volatile temperament at times, and one who is not a naturally pacific person. I admire Vera Brittain enormously, and the Quakers too. I am also deeply impressed by the realisation that we are all human beings, given life by God. What right have others to take that life away? What cause can possibly justify it? Not many, I think."

Maybe all that anyone can do is their best, where they are, to promote peace through following the Golden Rule in our lives, and trying to behave towards those we connect with, with loving-kindness, or compassion.


1 comment:

  1. I am similarly conflicted but I think one should work towards peace.

    Here's my Remembrance Sunday address from 2011: