Belfast Telegraph

Reconciliation is key to future

Editor's Viewpoint

Reconciliation formed the fitting main theme of the Queen's speech on the day when 100 years ago exactly British and German soldiers met in No Man's Land in an impromptu truce, exchanged gifts and even took part in a fabled football match.

It was an act of humanity amid the carnage of a war that was supposed to end wars and has been an inspiration for artists, novelists, musicians and even comedians in the intervening years.

Of course, those soldiers went on to slaughter and be slaughtered in the trenches of the First World War and their descendants were to face each other again just over two decades later. But what they showed on that day was a humanity and a decency which transcended a struggle not of their making but which they were used to resolve.

Compare that to the barbarism that is now common place on the battlefields of the Middle East, where even civilians bringing aid or merely reporting on the conflict are beheaded in the most gruesome circumstances. There is no honour or humanity being displayed on those battlefields.

Yet those are undying virtues which have enabled the foes that reduced large parts of Europe to rubble to now live in peace with each other, showing an ultimate triumph of good over evil.

However, we should never forget the sacrifice of those who gave their lives so that future generations could live in peace, free from the jackboot of tyranny.

The spectacular poppy display at the Tower of London earlier this year was a poignant reminder of their sacrifice, as each of the 888,2146 ceramic plants represented an Allied soldier's death in the First World War. It was a display that reduced Her Majesty to silence as she walked through it earlier this year.

Can anyone who viewed it and grasped its significance ever doubt the futility of war and why reconciliation is a much more powerful weapon than even those weapons of mass destruction which are used so routinely throughout the world today?

The Queen made that point forcefully in recalling her visit to Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, where terrorists were incarcerated during our Troubles but which today is a symbol of the reconciliation between former sworn enemies. It is one of the places in Northern Ireland where the spirit of No Man's Land of a century ago lives on.

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