AT the outbreak of World War I, when patriotism was at its peak, “the war to end all war” was a common catchphrase.
British cabinet minister David Lloyd George, soon to become wartime Prime Minister, sensed the bitter irony in the statement.
“This war, like the next war,” he cynically remarked, “is another war to end all war.”
And the next war. And the ones after that. The War to End All War did little more than to perpetuate war.
A century after the start of World War I, which left 20 million dead, putting an end to global conflict is still a distant dream.
Can we ever hope for world peace? Armed conflict seems the way of the world, not something that belongs to the tragic past.
It is the most deadly plague in history.
In the book, What Every Person Should Know About War, Christopher Hedges writes that over the past 3400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or only 8 per cent of recorded history.
As long as there are nations rising against nations, world peace is improbable.
As Martin Luther King observed: “We have guided missiles and misguided men.”
Nearly all wars are due to the desperate grasping of an ideology, a fight for resources or for power.
The Dalai Lama was once asked how he thought we could best achieve world peace.
He said: “The best way to achieve world peace is, first, each of us must develop peace in our own hearts.”
It’s a simple but profound message.
Is there any righteousness between nations?
Not while men and women remain indifferent to the rights of others. It’s not hatred that is the opposite of love. It’s indifference.
And indifference can do more harm than outright hatred.
There’s no point in trying to change the world unless we can make personal changes in ourselves.
Gandhi said: “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the ‘atomic age’ – as in being able to remake ourselves.”
In a Christmas sermon in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1967, Martin Luther King said: “If we don’t have good will toward men in this world, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own instruments and our own power.
“If we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men, we must have the non-violent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God. And so when we say, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, we’re really saying that human life is too sacred to be taken on the battlefields of the world.
“Man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smouldering. Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such.
“Until men see this everywhere, until nations see this everywhere, we will be fighting wars.”