I couldn’t help but feel a little bit numb and disillusioned, when the news of resurged conflict in the Middle East emerged about 3 weeks ago. Israel had launched an offensive strike into the Gaza Strip in an attempt to halt the bombings by Hamas on Southern Israel. This was unfortunately another page in a long history of conflict. According to The Economist Jews and Arabs in Palestine have been fighting on and off for about 100 years. With a track record like that it is particularly hard to stay hopeful about peace. But we have to. If we give up on the prospect of peace and reconciliation, then we are doing a great disservice to those whose only choice is hope. I believe that true peace is a process, it is not just about laying down of weapons or a cease of fire. It is far more than just the absence of war. Anways, I really needed encouraging on this issue this week and I was really inspired by the Peace Address given by President John F. Kennedy at the American University in June 1963. This speech inspired a new hope of peace and set in motion steps that would eventually bring an end to the Cold War. I have selected parts of the speech for you below. JFK spoke words that will maybe inspire us to give peace another chance.
I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war–and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task…
First: Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable–that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.
We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade–therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable–and we believe they can do it again.
I am not referring to the absolute, infinite concept of peace and good will of which some fantasies and fanatics dream. I do not deny the value of hopes and dreams but we merely invite discouragement and incredulity by making that our only and immediate goal.
Let us focus instead on a more practical, more attainable peace– based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions–on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace–no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many nations, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process–a way of solving problems.
With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. World peace, like community peace, does not require that each man love his neighbor–it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement. And history teaches us that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. However fixed our likes and dislikes may seem, the tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations and neighbors.
So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and war need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it….
…”When a man’s ways please the Lord,” the Scriptures tell us, “he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights–the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation–the right to breathe air as nature provided it–the right of future generations to a healthy existence?
You can read the full speech here.
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