One hundred years ago the battle of Passchendaele was just getting into its stride. It left around half a million dead and injured in its wake over the months that it was fought.
The nearby Menin Gate was visited by George V who said, “I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon Earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”
It was described as the war to end all wars and yet how many wars and conflicts have happened since then?
How many wars are raging now?
Even over just these last few weeks there has been an escalation of Israeli and Palestinian tensions spilling over to violence.
And North Korea has been sabre rattling with the launch ‘testing’ of its missiles generating a war of words from Trump with various far eastern leaders and nations, including a flexing of military muscle with the presence of US ships and planes.
It is something in the human nature that attracts conflict and violence.
After the Manchester bombing a poet’s words of “Choose love not hate” echoed around the world.
It is a fine sentiment, much in line with George V’s comments and others who decry the waste of war.
As Churchill said, “Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war”, and yet how easily humanity descends into conflict.
I quoted the poet’s words soon after and noted with sadness the way in which I was vilified online for daring to suggest that perpetuating hatred of those who commit atrocities only breeds more violence.
War will only be brought to an end by breaking the vicious circle of hatred and violence. It takes a great act of will and bravery to do it.
I personally battle with the issues surrounding pacifism.
I believe that being a true pacifist has great merit and requires great strength and willpower.
The story of Jesus before Pilate on trial for his life exhibits those qualities as he refuses to defend himself knowing what had to happen. Cowardice is something else entirely, but in the face of extreme violence who could blame anyone for wanting to run away!
I do believe that evil has to be confronted and sometimes conflict is the result. Battling for what is good and right is sometimes the right course of action.
But given the consequences of all out conflict and the memory of Passchendaele should give us all cause to pause. I hope the leaders of North Korea and the US generals are aware of just what the consequences of their actions might be!