Promoting Peace in View of Wars

Holidayslike Memorial Day and Veterans Day refer to wars gone by, sacrifices made, honors earned, people armed to fight for their country. For humanists, it may be compelling to explicitly spell out a peace message and augment a care element to these days. For example, some veterans from wars suffer greatly with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and standing up for their right to comprehensive care is important. People can express empathy for soldiers and help them heal from the moral trauma they experienced. This healing is imperative for a healthy civilian society. There are many social justice forums through which to contribute to the healing processes of former soldiers. 

Perhaps we might take some time to envision a world of tolerance and mutuality, a world beyond war. “I ain’t gonna study war no more…. I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield…. down by the Riverside,” sing many a peace activist. 

With children it is essential to build conflict resolution skills into their play to help them face the enormous challenge of peace on their very own playgrounds. Processes of world peace, such as Truth and Reconciliation, must be practiced and upheld at this level. Peace skills that support our future generations to solve problems without war are essential and these important days of reflection can offer gravity to those skills. 

War can often be glamorized and worshiped in society, and on these days, it can be publicly treated as sacred. Games of warring thread through childhood play. How adults respond to those games and facilitate them is wide ranging. How do you respond to children who “shoot at” others with their hand as a gun-shape? How do you respond to a child who wants to play with toy guns? Engaging in this question before it overwhelms you can be useful. There are many theories about gunplay, but one practical thought worth understanding is that toy guns do not look different enough from real ones, and children at play have been gravely misinterpreted with their toys putting their own lives at risk. 

Hearing children’s voices helps children find their own voices. Here is a poem about war written by an 11-year-old at EthicalNYC:

“I Wish for Paradise”

I look around and see the war.
Where there was once life
there is pain and strife.
Where there was once laughter and the rhythm of hearts beating,
there is now broken glass and hearts that haves stopped feeling.
The news blares with warnings of doomsday,
and this may be our final chance.
I see the seas rising and the trees falling.
I see children who do not laugh, who do not play, who live afraid.
Is this the world that we have made?

Do we always need to fight?
Do we always need to kill?
Will we do this until
there is nothing left?
Concrete and metal, guns and bombshells?

There is still beauty.
We can see through the fire.
I just hope that earth won’t become a funeral pyre.
What is peace? Can we ever have it?
Will there be a day when we have learned from our mistakes,
with no wars, no hunger, no pain.
Maybe someday there will.
We need to work for it still —
to take action until
that hope we fulfill.

We are all children of Mother Earth.
Children who will struggle with every chemical polluted breath.
Children with suppressed rights.
Children who swim and fly, tangled up in nets, fighting for their lives.
Children dying from hunger, eating only sawdust bread.
Children poisoned by greed.

Poverty and war — over coal and oil.
People poisoning the soil.
Families torn by turmoil.

We need to be loyal to Mother Earth after all she’s given.
This is the only place we can actually live in.
So, let’s protect her, let’s give back.
Let’s strive to become the generous ones
whom this earth so lacks.

We can rise from greed, hunger and lies.
We will see through the fire — but only if we try.