Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

First World War centenary: Conflict can't extinguish light of hope

No words can ever do full justice to the men who fought and died at the front in World War One, which began 100 years ago. They were heroes who defended their country and generations of their successors in the most appalling conditions. They were slaughtered wholesale, many finding an unknown muddy grave leaving their relatives with only memories but no spot to pray for them.

But while we can eulogise the soldiers at the front, we should not make the mistake of regarding war, whatever its outcome, as a triumph.

As Dr Richard Clarke, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, said at St Anne's Cathedral last night, war is the failure of humanity. It is the failure of people to live or co-exist in peace or to settle differences by diplomacy rather than by dropping bombs. It is the failure of people to regard the sanctity of human life as higher than any material prize.

World War One was supposed to be the war that ended all wars, but how hollow that hope now seems.

It seems that there is no insanity from which humanity will recoil permanently. And yet, as Dr Clarke said, the darkness of war has never fully extinguished the light of hope. It might seem different to the people of Gaza today, or those living in parts of Ukraine, Iraq or Syria, but those engaged in those conflicts need to hear the words of Dr Clarke.

Israel in particular should realise that no matter how much of Gaza it reduces to rubble or how many people it kills – many of them innocent and unarmed – it cannot win peace from the barrel of a gun.

All it will do is fire up Palestinian militants who will return at some stage to renew the conflict.

The bloodshed should stop and Israel's allies, chiefly the USA and Britain, should make it clear that they are opposed to the continuing carnage.

They have talked tough against Putin, but been remarkably quietly spoken over Gaza. Humanity demands that they speak out.

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