Essay on Peace

Essay on Peace

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After a millennium of conflict and war—what chance of a millennium of peace? Some ten millennia ago civilization emerged in the Middle East, as the people of that area learned to till the earth and grow crops, thus opening the way to the ownership of land and the accumulation of wealth, and also to population growth and urban settlement. This new way of life created the potential for conflicts between towns and states and, later, between empires. This civilization brought warfare in its train.

While these new state structures was evolving, Christianity was becoming a predominantly European religion. And the power of that religion’s moral teaching, however much distorted by human failings of clergy and rulers, inspired an extraordinary European flowering of culture in architecture and art, and later created the conditions for key developments in technology, philosophy, and science. Thus, by the last quarter of the second millennium, although Christian belief was by then waning, European civilization had become the dominant force in a world that was well on its way to becoming a “global village”.

But all this had come at a price. The competitive vitality of this emerging civilization, harnessed by the ambitions of its kings, had created near-perpetual conflict between the emerging states of the Continent—conflicts which in later centuries spread to the colonial empires of some of Europe’s major powers. Moreover, in later centuries, technological advances accelerated the lethal effects of these conflicts—to the point where in the closing century of the millennium the very existence of the human race came under threat from this weaponry.

Early in the 20th century the growth of ethnic nationalism had led to the collapse of multi-ethnic states. This further increased the number of potential conflicts in our existing civilizations—especially where, as in Eastern Europe, past movements of peoples had left behind a palimpsest of ethnic minorities that simply could not be accommodated comfortably within any conceivable set of geographical boundaries. Ethnic conflicts broke out in many other parts of the world as the overseas empires of European states disintegrated.

Thus, towards the end of the millennium, both the technology of war and the number of actual and potential conflicts were increasing rapidly. In our technologically advanced world, potentially disastr...


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... not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.’ The people there, children of our older states, seem to have forgotten the blood-tried principles of their fathers the moment they lost sight of our history. Something was to be done to show them the priceless value of peace, to bring back and set right their wandering and confused ideas. He and his advisers looked out on a community, staggering like a drunken man, indifferent to their rights and confused in their feelings. Deaf to argument, haply they might be stunned into sobriety. They saw that of which we cannot judge, the necessity of resistance. Insulted law called for it. Public opinion, fast hastening on the downward course, must be arrested.

It is a work of mutual concession—an agreement in which there are reciprocal stipulations—a work in which, for the sake of peace and concord, one party abates his extreme demands in consideration of an abatement of extreme demands by the other party: it is a measure of mutual concession—a measure of mutual sacrifice.

You and others who are associated with us in today's task and duty, are bound together and must stand together henceforth in brotherly union for the achievement of the peace.

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