I'm generally suspicious of peace initiatives. As a student of history, I can never get 1938 out of my mind.
That was the year Adolf Hitler demanded self-determination for Germans living in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. Violence broke out in the region as a result, and martial law was proclaimed. Events escalated and alarmed Europe; war seemed inevitable.
An international conference gathered in Munich at the end of September to prevent armed conflict. In the end, Germany was allowed to occupy the Sudetenland (to protect the interest of the Germans there), and Hitler, for his part, guaranteed a plebiscite. Neville Chamberlain returned to England in triumph, proclaiming that he had secured "peace in our time."
A year later, World War II raged. The Munich Pact had merely given Hitler time to build his military; this, in turn, only made the inevitable war last that much longer, with that many more casualties, and that many more Jews murdered in concentration camps.
You can understand why, when people today speak of nonviolence and peace initiatives, I squirm. To be sure, I agree with the greatest statesman of World War II, Winston Churchill, that "To jaw-jaw is better than to war-war." Then again, I see too many instances, in history and in current events, that suggest the only way to peace and justice seems to be to send in the troops.
This is hardly the point or tone of our lead story, "Anonymous Are the Peacemakers," which is precisely why I am glad we are featuring it in our pages.
The article throws an appropriate cup of cold water on my "political realism." As the author Gerald Shenk shows, Christians have indeed succeeded at getting enemies to sit down and talk. Shenk suggests that sometimes it is prayer that revives stalled negotiations, and he reveals that in some cases, the efforts of Christians have saved thousands of lives, in South Africa, Northern Ireland, and elsewhere.
When it comes to international politics, Christians especially can sometimes be a naïve bunch. Then again, when Christians live out the message of the Prince of Peace with courage and wisdom, they sometimes do bring peace in our time.
The lead article originated in associate editor Jeff Sellers's application process last summer. It was one of ten article ideas we asked him to propose for CT, and when Jeff arrived in July, we asked him to pursue this story. The results speak for themselves and explain why we are so pleased to have Jeff as part of the team.
Jeff brings varied experience and interests to CT. He's intrigued by the intersection of faith and work (his recent Master of Christian Studies at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C., concentrated in marketplace theology). He worked for four years as a freelance journalist in Madrid, Spain, covering political, cultural, and religious affairs for various North American periodicals, including CT, The Globe and Mail (Toronto), and USA Today. He also compiled and translated a book of proverbs, Folk Wisdom of Mexico (Chronicle Books), which followed his two-and-a-half-year stint as a journalist in Mexico City.
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