War in our Life Time

At the beginning of 1980, I placed a bet with a workmate that before the turn of the century we would have world peace. I was so confident of this we placed a significant amount of money on the bet. I’m not a gambling person, but that was how confident I felt back then.

My argument went like this: ‘How could we not learn from the misery of the second world war, the Korean and the Vietnam War?’ Why would we, being sensible people, put ourselves in that horrible situation again? And here was the biggest deterrent, I thought: why would we want to start a war when nuclear weapons could be deployed? That surely would stop anyone wanting to go to war.

We shook on the bet and went our separate ways, promising to meet on the eve of 2000 to pay the other what we owed.

Fortunately for me and my bank account, we lost touch.

At the time, I had found his cynicism hard to take. But then he struggled with me, saying ‘I was a dreamer.’ Of course, I vehemently disagreed at the time. But I wonder who was right. I know it wasn’t me.

How incredibly disappointing! In fact, I’ve turned full circle. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that we will never see the end of war. That makes me feel really sad for coming generations.

How in the world they will sort it all out is beyond me. United Nations once seemed like a good idea and part of the answer. But they have little ‘real’ power.

The saddest thing of all is that the groups who claim to belong to a religion preaching peace are often at the heart of some of the worst wars the world has ever seen.  

Take the appalling situation in the Gaza Strip. The Jewish community knows only too well what it is like to be without a home, to be despised in their own land and to be unwanted. The Hamas, who have sprung out of Islam, are also guided by religious beliefs that acknowledge Allah or God as the Supreme Being. According to them this Supreme Being is unknowable. Therefore to claim that waging war in the Name of Allah is a perplexing paradox. How can we know what another entity requires of us if we don’t know it?

I grew up in a household that believed that the fundamentals of religion were the same, that each sprang up in a time in history when change was needed. I became a firm believer that in every religion there was a philosophy that stated that we should love one another, turn the other cheek, and seek peaceful resolutions to discord.

Essentially, I continue to believe that the majority of people in this world do not want war, regardless of their beliefs. But these are the people without power and without any real voice.

Unfortunately, the people who have the greatest say also have at their disposal access to destructive weaponry. Put this with bigotry and dogmatic beliefs and we have war.

The war in Gaza seems an unfairly fought war. How can a war that has treble the number of casualties than the other side be fair? But the most troubling thought of all is that the children who are caught up in it see violence as the solution to violence and we have planted the seeds for future wars in the hearts of young and vulnerable citizens.

How can peace be built on a platform of war? It cannot. Peace begets peace and war generates war. When the hearts of those in control of these conflicts are genuinely seeking peace, we will find that peace will result.

I long for that day but unlike the person who made that bet over 30 years ago, I don’t believe I will see it in my life time.