The new century brought with it the hope that at long last we could find a world at peace after the millennia of human strife and bloodshed known as history. However, the grim truth is that there is very little hope that our prayers for a peaceful world will soon be answered, as we witness the ongoing civilian slaughter in Ukraine in the wake of the Putin-led onslaught.
It is against this depressing and terrifying background of bloodshed and menace to humanity that the fact remains – although amid the alarming world headlines it is generally overlooked – that millions of ordinary people all over this troubled planet yearn and pray in their heads and hearts for peace on earth at long last, and to reverse the seemingly remorseless progress of history that can so easily lead to the very extinction of humanity in a nuclear devastated earth.
How then are we going to reverse history’s dismally negative trend and give hope and peace a chance, so that ordinary folk will be able to live out their lives to the fullest without fear of what the morrow will bring?
As a religious Jew and Israeli who daily prays for peace in the world, I feel very keenly and with profound perplexity the stark situation we all face – we ordinary people – in a world that seems to glory in a perpetual litany of destruction, war and terror that shows little sign of abating and of taking into account the hopes, prayers and fears of all the ordinary folk whose one desire is to live in peace in a bombless, terrorless, and bulletless world in which the only wars waged are those against poverty, famine and disease.
How is it that despite the teachings of all the great religions about the supreme importance of peace and tolerance and human life, none of this seems to have percolated to our leaders in the course of history who blithely continue to seek power and territory at the terrible cost of life and limb of millions of innocent men, women and children, sowing ever-greater chaos and destruction with the help of increasingly deadly weaponry?
The sad fact is that today still, the feelings and desires of ordinary people appear to have no positive impact on the actions and aspirations of those who history has gifted with leadership roles in their respective lands. Instead of working tirelessly for the future of the planet and mankind, they work tirelessly to consolidate their personal and party power and to impose their will on less powerful nations, thereby perpetuating the legacy of hatred, hostility and intolerance that will almost certainly culminate in warfare, bloodshed and encourage terror. Sadly, their populations of hapless innocent and ordinary folk, even in democracies, have little say in the matter and even less in promoting their yearning for peace. Very often, peace would seem to be the very last thing the leaders of nations are concerned with.
How are we going to reverse this tragic trend?
How are we going finally and forever to arrest the endless flow of blood, death and suffering that afflicts our world? Only if and when there arises a new breed of leaders committed without exception to a vision of world peace and human brotherhood and its realization that exists among thousands of millions of ordinary people in every country and state, will peace at last reign on earth, and will those same enlightened leaders, by common accord, beat their deadly weapons into plowshares of peace and usher in a new beginning for humankind. ■
David Herman lives in Jerusalem, the holy city of peace.