Another World Is Possible
Another World is Possible –
On Christmas Day, 1914, World War 1, German, British and French soldiers disobeyed their superiors and fraternized with “the enemy”. They sang Christmas carols, exchanged photos, shared rations. Soldiers embraced. They agreed if forced to fire their weapons, to aim high. Generals on both sides declared their spontaneous peacemaking to be treasonous and subject to court marshall. By March, 1915 the fraternization movement had been eradicated. By the time of the Armistice in 1918, 15 million would be slaughtered. About 110 million people were killed in wars in the 20th century – 3 times as many people as all the war deaths since the first century AD.
Unlike the fleeting Christmas Truce in the Great War, such urgent collaboration is dramatically on the rise. In Mumbai, India a mammoth peacebuilding conference gets underway in January. It will be the latest in a remarkable series of international civil society forums characterized as the new movement of movements – drawing together an unprecedented cross-section of individuals, groups and social movements to generate proposals that will help build a world free of violence.
To move toward a world without violence is a formidable challenge but must be a top priority for governments, too. Greece has laid out deliberate plans. At the October opening in Athens of an international conference hosted by the Geneva-based venerable International Peace Bureau
(IPB), and attended by several Canadians including my husband and myself, Greece’s Foreign Minister George Papandreou, inspired us. Telling us that Homer looked upon war as an absolute evil, Papandreou asserted ” We renounce war as the crown of human barbarity and madness.” Then he issued the Greek government’s call for the historic truce to be observed during the summer Olympic games in Greece in 2004. This was a norm for centuries from the games’ inception among city states. “If we can get peace for 14 days,” he said. “then maybe, just maybe, we can get peace forever.” His hope that the cycle of peace will replace that of violence, and his belief that the UN is the best instrument for dealing with the world’s problems and in the power of civil society were echoed throughout the conference.
threatened by 30,000 of them – enough to unleash 300,000 Hiroshimas. Another physician presented the Olympic authorities with a well-developed Swedish peace-education program, Life-Link Friendship Schools.
In March, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace (VOW,) co-founded by the late Helen Tucker of Mississauga, will launch a global call at the UN for the delegitimization of war. It is time that the particular right of the state to make war be further curtailed. “The institution of war, which is supported by taxes and protected by laws, must be put on the same shelf of history with slavery,colonialism and apartheid”, the President of the International Peace Bureau, Cora Weiss, reiterated.
IPB, with 13 Nobel laureates in its ranks over its 111 years, with a membership of 20 international federations, 215 national and local members organizations and 2 IPB affiliate offices in Barcelona and Lugo, Italy is in the midst of planning a whopper of a “Dialogue” for people who want a world without violence. In late June 2004, in Barcelona, Spain, Forum Barcelona 2004, the Peace Foundation and the International Peace Bureau will offer a platform for contributions to new ways of thinking about conditions for peace. This will be part of an even more extraordinary 5 month cascade of countless activities throughout the city to explore two more themes connected to peace – sustainable development and cultural diversity. (See www.ipb.org )
This world has more than one superpower. Civil society is another! These initiatives and many others are fostering a serious force for non-violence. Many know and act with care and commitment for neither nation, continent nor creed but simply as interdependent members of humanity. Let’s demand now that our new federal government build the appropriate institutions that will promote and maintain peace for at present no such infrastructure exists to convert even the most promising results of peace research into feasible action. The final surrender of the outmoded, possibly omnicidal practice of war will be immensely healthier for humans and all living things.
Janis Alton co-chairs Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and is a newly elected North American Representative to IPB.