As we remember those who have died for our Country in conflict over a century on Sunday I think it is worth reflecting how peace is built.
As a society, I think, we are resigned to the fact that war is a part of life and I think that is both wrong and sad. I have the greatest respect for those who serve in our armed forces. Close family members have served in past wars and present. A Great Uncle was one of the first members of the SAS in the deserts of North Africa in 1942 – he died there – and my cousin commands a Tank squadron in today’s army.
As well as being a formidable soldier my Great Uncle was also a poet and I have an anthology of his war poetry from his time in the Second World War on my bookshelf at home. Both he and my cousins would agree that to send troops into battle should only ever be a last resort and that we should spend far more time and energy on building peace.
Our media covers war a lot but talks very little about peace. I think that’s because peace is complicated and is not just the absence of war. In fact, whilst war requires the highest technology, vast sums of money and huge movements of people – peace is the opposite. It requires very little technology and resource but is built from human understanding and spirit.
Peace is built on the everyday kindnesses, understanding and communities that we build in our towns and cities. A kindness to neighbours, understanding another’s culture, old teaching young and young helping the old. It is built on a journalists choice to understand a story more deeply or a political leaders chose to hear all sides of the story. It is built on the choices of businessmen and women to act fairly when they recruit and the police’s choice to understand where communities might not trust or respect them. Most of the people I meet in Bristol do help to build peace in our city but they are often unsung and unrecognised.
In these divided times we would do well to remember that all our words and actions lead us in one direction or the other – towards peace and understanding or conflict and war. Our peace is built on those choices and we should never forget that.
That is why, on Sunday, I will be standing to remember our heroic dead but using every ounce of my energy to build understanding and peace in our city and our world so that we never have to remember again.