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 ...1
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