The Christmas Truce

The following letter, traditionally reposted nearer to the day, was last year reposted earlier in response to the travesty of a supermarket, J Sainsbury PLC, cashing in on the occasion and using it in recent a marketing campaign. As No Glory In War say in their article 1914: When a Perfectly Good War Was Ruined by a Game of Football, ‘It would have been a great source of comfort for millions who died in foreign fields to know their noble sacrifice would still be honoured a century later, in an advert for a shop.’

________

 

by Aaron Shephard

Christmas Day, 1914

My dear sister Janet,

It is 2:00 in the morning and most of our men are asleep in their dugouts—yet I could not sleep myself before writing to you of the wonderful events of Christmas Eve. In truth, what happened seems almost like a fairy tale, and if I hadn’t been through it myself, I would scarce believe it. Just imagine: While you and the family sang carols before the fire there in London, I did the same with enemy soldiers here on the battlefields of France!

As I wrote before, there has been little serious fighting of late. The first battles of the war left so many dead that both sides have held back until replacements could come from home. So we have mostly stayed in our trenches and waited.

But what a terrible waiting it has been! Knowing that any moment an artillery shell might land and explode beside us in the trench, killing or maiming several men. And in daylight not daring to lift our heads above ground, for fear of a sniper’s bullet.

And the rain—it has fallen almost daily. Of course, it collects right in our trenches, where we must bail it out with pots and pans. And with the rain has come mud—a good foot or more deep. It splatters and cakes everything, and constantly sucks at our boots. One new recruit got his feet stuck in it, and then his hands too when he tried to get out—just like in that American story of the tar baby!

Through all this, we couldn’t help feeling curious about the German soldiers across the way. After all, they faced the same dangers we did, and slogged about in the same muck. What’s more, their first trench was only 50 yards from ours. Between us lay No Man’s Land, bordered on both sides by barbed wire—yet they were close enough we sometimes heard their voices.

Of course, we hated them when they killed our friends. But other times, we joked about them and almost felt we had something in common. And now it seems they felt the same.

Just yesterday morning—Christmas Eve Day—we had our first good freeze. Cold as we were, we welcomed it, because at least the mud froze solid. Everything was tinged white with frost, while a bright sun shone over all. Perfect Christmas weather.

During the day, there was little shelling or rifle fire from either side. And as darkness fell on our Christmas Eve, the shooting stopped entirely. Our first complete silence in months! We hoped it might promise a peaceful holiday, but we didn’t count on it. We’d been told the Germans might attack and try to catch us off guard.

I went to the dugout to rest, and lying on my cot, I must have drifted asleep. All at once my friend John was shaking me awake, saying, “Come and see! See what the Germans are doing!” I grabbed my rifle, stumbled out into the trench, and stuck my head cautiously above the sandbags.

I never hope to see a stranger and more lovely sight. Clusters of tiny lights were shining all along the German line, left and right as far as the eye could see.

“What is it?” I asked in bewilderment, and John answered, “Christmas trees!”

And so it was. The Germans had placed Christmas trees in front of their trenches, lit by candle or lantern like beacons of good will.

And then we heard their voices raised in song.

Stille nacht, heilige nacht . . . .

This carol may not yet be familiar to us in Britain, but John knew it and translated: “Silent night, holy night.” I’ve never heard one lovelier—or more meaningful, in that quiet, clear night, its dark softened by a first-quarter moon.

When the song finished, the men in our trenches applauded. Yes, British soldiers applauding Germans! Then one of our own men started singing, and we all joined in.

The first Nowell, the angel did say . . . .

In truth, we sounded not nearly as good as the Germans, with their fine harmonies. But they responded with enthusiastic applause of their own and then began another.

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum . . . .

Then we replied.

O come all ye faithful . . . .

But this time they joined in, singing the same words in Latin.

Adeste fideles . . . .

British and German harmonizing across No Man’s Land! I would have thought nothing could be more amazing—but what came next was more so.

“English, come over!” we heard one of them shout. “You no shoot, we no shoot.”

There in the trenches, we looked at each other in bewilderment. Then one of us shouted jokingly, “You come over here.”

To our astonishment, we saw two figures rise from the trench, climb over their barbed wire, and advance unprotected across No Man’s Land. One of them called, “Send officer to talk.”

I saw one of our men lift his rifle to the ready, and no doubt others did the same—but our captain called out, “Hold your fire.” Then he climbed out and went to meet the Germans halfway. We heard them talking, and a few minutes later, the captain came back with a German cigar in his mouth!

“We’ve agreed there will be no shooting before midnight tomorrow,” he announced. “But sentries are to remain on duty, and the rest of you, stay alert.”

Across the way, we could make out groups of two or three men starting out of trenches and coming toward us. Then some of us were climbing out too, and in minutes more, there we were in No Man’s Land, over a hundred soldiers and officers of each side, shaking hands with men we’d been trying to kill just hours earlier!

Before long a bonfire was built, and around it we mingled—British khaki and German grey. I must say, the Germans were the better dressed, with fresh uniforms for the holiday.

Only a couple of our men knew German, but more of the Germans knew English. I asked one of them why that was.

“Because many have worked in England!” he said. “Before all this, I was a waiter at the Hotel Cecil. Perhaps I waited on your table!”

“Perhaps you did!” I said, laughing.

He told me he had a girlfriend in London and that the war had interrupted their plans for marriage. I told him, “Don’t worry. We’ll have you beat by Easter, then you can come back and marry the girl.”

He laughed at that. Then he asked if I’d send her a postcard he’d give me later, and I promised I would.

Another German had been a porter at Victoria Station. He showed me a picture of his family back in Munich. His eldest sister was so lovely, I said I should like to meet her someday. He beamed and said he would like that very much and gave me his family’s address.

Even those who could not converse could still exchange gifts—our cigarettes for their cigars, our tea for their coffee, our corned beef for their sausage. Badges and buttons from uniforms changed owners, and one of our lads walked off with the infamous spiked helmet! I myself traded a jackknife for a leather equipment belt—a fine souvenir to show when I get home.

Newspapers too changed hands, and the Germans howled with laughter at ours. They assured us that France was finished and Russia nearly beaten too. We told them that was nonsense, and one of them said, “Well, you believe your newspapers and we’ll believe ours.”

Clearly they are lied to—yet after meeting these men, I wonder how truthful our own newspapers have been. These are not the “savage barbarians” we’ve read so much about. They are men with homes and families, hopes and fears, principles and, yes, love of country. In other words, men like ourselves. Why are we led to believe otherwise?

As it grew late, a few more songs were traded around the fire, and then all joined in for—I am not lying to you—“Auld Lang Syne.” Then we parted with promises to meet again tomorrow, and even some talk of a football match.

I was just starting back to the trenches when an older German clutched my arm. “My God,” he said, “why cannot we have peace and all go home?”

I told him gently, “That you must ask your emperor.”

He looked at me then, searchingly. “Perhaps, my friend. But also we must ask our hearts.”

And so, dear sister, tell me, has there ever been such a Christmas Eve in all history? And what does it all mean, this impossible befriending of enemies?

For the fighting here, of course, it means regrettably little. Decent fellows those soldiers may be, but they follow orders and we do the same. Besides, we are here to stop their army and send it home, and never could we shirk that duty.

Still, one cannot help imagine what would happen if the spirit shown here were caught by the nations of the world. Of course, disputes must always arise. But what if our leaders were to offer well wishes in place of warnings? Songs in place of slurs? Presents in place of reprisals? Would not all war end at once?

All nations say they want peace. Yet on this Christmas morning, I wonder if we want it quite enough.

Your loving brother,
Tom

About the Story

The Christmas Truce of 1914 has been called by Arthur Conan Doyle “one human episode amid all the atrocities.” It is certainly one of the most remarkable incidents of World War I and perhaps of all military history. Inspiring both popular songs and theater, it has endured as an almost archetypal image of peace.

Starting in some places on Christmas Eve and in others on Christmas Day, the truce covered as much as two-thirds of the British-German front, with French and Belgians involved as well. Thousands of soldiers took part. In most places it lasted at least through Boxing Day (December 26), and in some through mid-January. Perhaps most remarkably, it grew out of no single initiative but sprang up in each place spontaneously and independently.

Unofficial and spotty as the truce was, there have been those convinced it never happened—that the whole thing was made up. Others have believed it happened but that the news was suppressed. Neither is true. Though little was printed in Germany, the truce made headlines for weeks in British newspapers, with published letters and photos from soldiers at the front. In a single issue, the latest rumor of German atrocities might share space with a photo of British and German soldiers crowded together, their caps and helmets exchanged, smiling for the camera.

Historians, on the other hand, have shown less interest in an unofficial outbreak of peace. There has been only one comprehensive study of the incident: Christmas Truce, by Malcolm Brown and Shirley Seaton, Secker & Warburg, London, 1984—a companion volume to the authors’ 1981 BBC documentary, Peace in No Man’s Land. The book features a large number of first-hand accounts from letters and diaries. Nearly everything described in my fictional letter is drawn from these accounts—though I have heightened the drama somewhat by selecting, arranging, and compressing.

In my letter, I’ve tried to counteract two popular misconceptions of the truce. One is that only common soldiers took part in it, while officers opposed it. (Few officers opposed it, and many took part.) The other is that neither side wished to return to fighting. (Most soldiers, especially British, French, and Belgian, remained determined to fight and win.)

Sadly, I also had to omit the Christmas Day games of football—or soccer, as called in the U.S.—often falsely associated with the truce. The truth is that the terrain of No Man’s Land ruled out formal games—though certainly some soldiers kicked around balls and makeshift substitutes.

Another false idea about the truce was held even by most soldiers who were there: that it was unique in history. Though the Christmas Truce is the greatest example of its kind, informal truces had been a longstanding military tradition. During the American Civil War, for instance, Rebels and Yankees traded tobacco, coffee, and newspapers, fished peacefully on opposite sides of a stream, and even gathered blackberries together. Some degree of fellow feeling had always been common among soldiers sent to battle.

Of course, all that has changed in modern times. Today, soldiers kill at great distances, often with the push of a button and a sighting on a computer screen. Even where soldiers come face to face, their languages and cultures are often so diverse as to make friendly communication unlikely.

No, we should not expect to see another Christmas Truce. Yet still what happened on that Christmas of 1914 may inspire the peacemakers of today—for, now as always, the best time to make peace is long before the armies go to war.

___________

Check out No Glory In War a national campaign of political, cultural, and educational activities that opposes ‘nationalist’ interpretations of the First World War, and aims to promote international solidarity and peace. On their website you’ll find other articles related to The Christmas Truce, including material from the UK poet laureate Carol Anne Duffy, Rudyard Kipling. Also available is the excellent resource No Glory: The Real History of World War One, a new 36-page pamphlet by historian Neil Faulkner looks at the real reasons for the outbreak of the First World War.

Peace

 

Waging Peace

[Editor’s note: This isn’t a plug for the method specified in the article. It’s reposted here to promote thought and action in connection with the described processes. The method specified is one of a variety available that enable the process.]

Waging Peace

by Cate Montana in The Global Intelligencer

Peace is breaking out all over.

If you get your news from mainstream TV and radio, you probably haven’t noticed. But here are a few startling statistics the networks have overlooked in their rush to promote the usual stories of crime, corruption, terrorism and war.

More lasting peace initiatives have been successful in the last 15 years than over the last two or three centuries combined.

More individuals and private groups are involved in effective grass roots peace-making and conflict resolution efforts than ever before.

Thirty years ago the great majority of the world’s governments were autocratic, totalitarian regimes with democracies far in the minority. Today approximately 70% of world governments are democratic.1

With our attention fixed on “the problems,” we rarely hear stories like the one about the philanthropist who subsidized a group of 8,000 Transcendental Meditation practitioners to engage in group meditation twice a day from 1988 to 1990, near New Delhi, India.

During this same period, the seven year war between Iraq and Iran came to an end. The Soviet Union’s brutal invasion of Afghanistan was called to a halt. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union dissolved, and the Cold War, which had held the world teetering on the brink of extinction for forty years, simply evaporated. Coincidence? Not hardly.

There is a technology of peace, and many organizations and individuals have been utilizing it for a long time. The most prominent is the Maharishi University of Management, based in Fairfield, Iowa, founded by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

With a university degree in physics, Maharishi was determined to ground the ancient science and meditation practices of the Vedas in modern scientific understanding and terminology. In line with his stated goals to “bring enlightenment to every individual on Earth, and to establish a state of permanent peace in the world,” he established the university in 1971 to not only provide an excellent academic and holistic education for students from around the world, but also to take meditation mainstream by providing scientific proof that meditation is effective in reducing stress, and inducing calmness, peace and mental/emotional fortitude.

World renowned physicist John Hagelin, responsible for the development of a highly successful grand unified field theory based on the Superstring, is Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at the university and a professor of physics. Along with Hagelin, scientists at the university have meticulously conducted over 600 scientific studies on the effects of meditation, and have been awarded nearly $20 million in federal research grants over the years to continue their investigations.

From this research, the effectiveness of meditation as a world-wide peace inducing technology has been extrapolated. “Reality is really one of unity, one of awareness, and universal consciousness,” says Hagelin. “With the discovery of the Unified Field, we are witnessing a total transformation of human knowledge — from the isolated understanding of specific laws of nature to the holistic understanding of the unity of existence.”

Transcendental Meditation, also known as TM, is not just healthy for the individual, it’s healthy for the planet and everyone on it. By tapping into the peace of the unified field, individuals meditating alone or in groups, literally emanate the qualities of unity, oneness and peace that characterize this underlying quantum level of reality. Studies have even revealed the number of meditating participants necessary worldwide to effect optimum change: either one percent of the earth’s population of 6.5 billion, (6.5 million), or the square root of one percent which is (maybe you guessed it already) approximately 8,000.

Because of wave amplification dynamics, having that number meditating in one large group, such as in the New Delhi experiment, is ideal. However it is also effective having smaller groups around the world meditating. To this end, Hagelin is helping establish the University of Peace worldwide, with the main campus in Iowa.

The goal to establish one University of Peace near every state capital in the U.S. is currently underway, and campuses are already in place in over 100 countries. In India, about 175 small campuses, with an average of 350 students each, have been established. One campus is being created in Washington D.C. “Which is not enough to bring peace to the world,” says Hagelin, “but it is enough to bring a very powerful source of peace to the United States and particularly in and around Washington D.C. where the influence of peace and sanity is perhaps most critically needed.”

The Lebanon study

One of the most well-known, and best controlled studies of the peace-creating effects of group meditation occurred during the Lebanese civil war in the early 1980s. With Israeli troops heavily involved, the situation around Beirut and the Chouf mountains was rapidly creating a middle-eastern powder keg. Into this arena in 1983, Drs. Charles Alexander and John Davies at Harvard University, in collaboration with Maharishi University of Management researchers, brought 200 experienced meditators, setting up a group base in Jerusalem along with local Israeli meditators, for a period of two months. In addition, a smaller group was formed in Lebanon, containing both Muslim and Christian meditators, and five other larger groups were established at various distances from Lebanon, ranging from 2,000 in Yugoslavia to 8,000 in the US, at intervals over a 2¼ year period.

“The Lebanese participants were heavily at risk doing this,” says Davies, co-director of the Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland. “If their fellow countrymen had known that Muslims and Christians were talking with each other, let alone meditating in harmony, they would have been killed.”

The results were highly significant. After controlling statistically for weather changes, Lebanese and Muslim, Christian and Jewish holidays, police activity, fluctuation in group sizes, and other variant influences, during the course of the study violence in Lebanon decreased between 40 to 80 percent each time a meditating group was in place, depending upon the measure and statistical approach used. This pattern was replicated seven consecutive times between 1983 and 1985. During the period each of the seven groups was in place, the average number of people killed during the war per day dropped from twelve to three, a decrease of more than 70%; war-related injuries fell by 68%; the intensity level of conflict dropped by 48%; and cooperation among antagonists increased by 66%. And the effects didn’t stop there. Violent crime incidents, auto accidents and fires in both Lebanon and Israel also decreased significantly during each of the studies.

According to an analysis of the results by the Maharishi School of Management, “the likelihood that these combined results were due to chance is less than one part in 1019, making this effect of reducing societal stress and conflict the most rigorously established phenomenon in the history of the social sciences.”

In 1988, Alexander and Davies’ meticulous findings on the very first study in 1983 were published in the prestigious Journal of Conflict Resolution. But the backlash of criticism was formidable, and it was another 15 years before Davies’ research showing that results were replicated seven times over with different groups could be presented in another peer-reviewed journal.

Peace from the bottom up

It is precisely because of the closed-minded attitudes of mainstream scientific organizations and publications, mainstream politics and mainstream journalism, that individuals such as Maharishi, Hagelin and Davies are taking peace-creating initiatives to the streets, teaching individuals how to transform their personal lives and showing them how they can make a difference in the world.

“Our most important responsibility as citizens is to create peace in our own lives,” says Davies. “We have to move beyond hypocrisy if we’re going to make peace. You can’t impose peace in a complex society, such as we’re living in now, through simply dictating what’s right and what’s wrong while not living up to your own standards. The first step of responsibility, which applies to all of us, is to be able to look to our own lives and see if we’re living and being the peace we want to create.”

Davies works to create peaceful solutions to political rivalries around the world through conflict resolution with Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects. His organization helped resolve an often violent Peru — Ecuador conflict over disputed territory when private citizens of both nations agreed to meet at the Maryland headquarters. “The solution that came up in our workshops was, let’s make this a bi-national park that honors the people that have died on both sides fighting over this sacred ground, and have shared sovereignty,” says Davies. “So that met the needs of both sides — it was win-win — and was incorporated as the basis for an official peace agreement.”

His organization has also been involved in mitigating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, contributing to an agreement on how the very limited water supplies there could be managed. Civilian workshops eventually arrived at a solution where people’s basic needs would be met at a low cost within budget parameters, while higher rates were established for irrigation and luxury use and water waste minimized. “Since those agreements emerged, water issues are no longer a deal breaker for a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” says Davies. “And that’s still the case.”

Davies is clear about the need for taking personal responsibility for creating peace. By uplifting one’s thoughts and expanding attitudes through meditation, people can prepare themselves to take a greater responsibility for world affairs. Changes in attitudes and widened perceptions are critical if a difference is to be made.

“We mistake the world for being some sort of zero sum place — we’re all fighting over limited resources,” he says. “But it’s not the resources that are limited. It’s the capacity to manage the resources well … and understand the human needs that are at stake. You’ve got to connect with people as human beings. From there, that and a little empathy allows you to be able to very quickly find ways of building partnerships that allow both side’s needs to be met.”

The Peace Government

After running for president on the Natural Law Party platform in 2000, Hagelin now eschews the regular political channels with their stubborn complexity, hierarchical structuring and lack of innovative thinking. As President of the US Peace Government, which is the US affiliate of the Global Country of World Peace founded by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in October 2002, Hagelin is busy building partnerships that carry grassroots peace efforts far beyond America’s shores. Literally a country without borders, the Global Country of World Peace is pulling together organizations, citizens and diplomats from around the world who hold the vision and who are willing to learn the scientifically proven principles and policies of governance under Natural Law.

According to Hagelin, the international diplomatic community in Washington D.C. has welcomed the existence of this essentially self-proclaimed Peace Government, and has been very active in visiting Hagelin’s D.C. offices for luncheons and planning projects — especially peace promoting projects in their own countries. “There are many countries in the world that are not particularly pleased with the current administration,” Hagelin says, “and are very eager to explore the possibility of relationships with an alternative government in the United States that is fundamentally concerned with their welfare and peace, and prevention of crime and promotion of education in their country.”

For more information uspeacegovernment.org [1]

1 John Davies, Ph.D. Co-Director, Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park MD

Source URL:
http://www.theglobalintelligencer.com/dec2007/soc-health/waging-peace
Links:
[1] http://www.uspeacegovernment.org/

 

Make Peace – it’s easy!

Make peace-it's easy

Hands up who wants peace!

All those with their hands down, please be advised, you’re reading the wrong blog.

All those with their hands up, what would you do if given an extremely simple, tried and tested, effective way of promoting peace? A method so much safer than smashing the nose cones of fighter jets or lying down in front of rolling tanks; easier and so much more meaningful and influential than marching down the street (yawn); a method that went viral back in the day when only viruses did, and was instrumental in generating a wave of public response that contributed in stopping the Vietnam War? Would you use it?

Here’s how: next time you’re in a situation where you would give a thumbs up or a wave, say for instance, you’re driving and someone lets you pull out or pull in, instead of a wave or thumb up, flash a peace sign. It’s that simple! It’s even safer given that more fingers remain in contact with the steering wheel. Say ‘Peace’ at the same time, (it’s okay, don’t be inhibited, they can’t hear you and possibly will never see you again), and the mouth naturally forms a smile when you say it. The smile, the vibe, and the sign will lift your spirits, guaranteed, and you never know, it might catch on.

Peace!

Waging Peace

[Editor’s note: This isn’t a plug for the method specified in the article. It’s reposted here to promote thought and action in connection with the described processes. The method specified is one of a variety available that enable the process.]

Waging Peace

by Cate Montana in The Global Intelligencer

Peace is breaking out all over.

If you get your news from mainstream TV and radio, you probably haven’t noticed. But here are a few startling statistics the networks have overlooked in their rush to promote the usual stories of crime, corruption, terrorism and war.

More lasting peace initiatives have been successful in the last 15 years than over the last two or three centuries combined.

More individuals and private groups are involved in effective grass roots peace-making and conflict resolution efforts than ever before.

Thirty years ago the great majority of the world’s governments were autocratic, totalitarian regimes with democracies far in the minority. Today approximately 70% of world governments are democratic.1

With our attention fixed on “the problems,” we rarely hear stories like the one about the philanthropist who subsidized a group of 8,000 Transcendental Meditation practitioners to engage in group meditation twice a day from 1988 to 1990, near New Delhi, India.

During this same period, the seven year war between Iraq and Iran came to an end. The Soviet Union’s brutal invasion of Afghanistan was called to a halt. In 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union dissolved, and the Cold War, which had held the world teetering on the brink of extinction for forty years, simply evaporated. Coincidence? Not hardly.

There is a technology of peace, and many organizations and individuals have been utilizing it for a long time. The most prominent is the Maharishi University of Management, based in Fairfield, Iowa, founded by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

With a university degree in physics, Maharishi was determined to ground the ancient science and meditation practices of the Vedas in modern scientific understanding and terminology. In line with his stated goals to “bring enlightenment to every individual on Earth, and to establish a state of permanent peace in the world,” he established the university in 1971 to not only provide an excellent academic and holistic education for students from around the world, but also to take meditation mainstream by providing scientific proof that meditation is effective in reducing stress, and inducing calmness, peace and mental/emotional fortitude.

World renowned physicist John Hagelin, responsible for the development of a highly successful grand unified field theory based on the Superstring, is Director of the Institute of Science, Technology and Public Policy at the university and a professor of physics. Along with Hagelin, scientists at the university have meticulously conducted over 600 scientific studies on the effects of meditation, and have been awarded nearly $20 million in federal research grants over the years to continue their investigations.

From this research, the effectiveness of meditation as a world-wide peace inducing technology has been extrapolated. “Reality is really one of unity, one of awareness, and universal consciousness,” says Hagelin. “With the discovery of the Unified Field, we are witnessing a total transformation of human knowledge — from the isolated understanding of specific laws of nature to the holistic understanding of the unity of existence.”

Transcendental Meditation, also known as TM, is not just healthy for the individual, it’s healthy for the planet and everyone on it. By tapping into the peace of the unified field, individuals meditating alone or in groups, literally emanate the qualities of unity, oneness and peace that characterize this underlying quantum level of reality. Studies have even revealed the number of meditating participants necessary worldwide to effect optimum change: either one percent of the earth’s population of 6.5 billion, (6.5 million), or the square root of one percent which is (maybe you guessed it already) approximately 8,000.

Because of wave amplification dynamics, having that number meditating in one large group, such as in the New Delhi experiment, is ideal. However it is also effective having smaller groups around the world meditating. To this end, Hagelin is helping establish the University of Peace worldwide, with the main campus in Iowa.

The goal to establish one University of Peace near every state capital in the U.S. is currently underway, and campuses are already in place in over 100 countries. In India, about 175 small campuses, with an average of 350 students each, have been established. One campus is being created in Washington D.C. “Which is not enough to bring peace to the world,” says Hagelin, “but it is enough to bring a very powerful source of peace to the United States and particularly in and around Washington D.C. where the influence of peace and sanity is perhaps most critically needed.”

The Lebanon study

One of the most well-known, and best controlled studies of the peace-creating effects of group meditation occurred during the Lebanese civil war in the early 1980s. With Israeli troops heavily involved, the situation around Beirut and the Chouf mountains was rapidly creating a middle-eastern powder keg. Into this arena in 1983, Drs. Charles Alexander and John Davies at Harvard University, in collaboration with Maharishi University of Management researchers, brought 200 experienced meditators, setting up a group base in Jerusalem along with local Israeli meditators, for a period of two months. In addition, a smaller group was formed in Lebanon, containing both Muslim and Christian meditators, and five other larger groups were established at various distances from Lebanon, ranging from 2,000 in Yugoslavia to 8,000 in the US, at intervals over a 2¼ year period.

“The Lebanese participants were heavily at risk doing this,” says Davies, co-director of the Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects at the Center for International Development and Conflict Management at the University of Maryland. “If their fellow countrymen had known that Muslims and Christians were talking with each other, let alone meditating in harmony, they would have been killed.”

The results were highly significant. After controlling statistically for weather changes, Lebanese and Muslim, Christian and Jewish holidays, police activity, fluctuation in group sizes, and other variant influences, during the course of the study violence in Lebanon decreased between 40 to 80 percent each time a meditating group was in place, depending upon the measure and statistical approach used. This pattern was replicated seven consecutive times between 1983 and 1985. During the period each of the seven groups was in place, the average number of people killed during the war per day dropped from twelve to three, a decrease of more than 70%; war-related injuries fell by 68%; the intensity level of conflict dropped by 48%; and cooperation among antagonists increased by 66%. And the effects didn’t stop there. Violent crime incidents, auto accidents and fires in both Lebanon and Israel also decreased significantly during each of the studies.

According to an analysis of the results by the Maharishi School of Management, “the likelihood that these combined results were due to chance is less than one part in 1019, making this effect of reducing societal stress and conflict the most rigorously established phenomenon in the history of the social sciences.”

In 1988, Alexander and Davies’ meticulous findings on the very first study in 1983 were published in the prestigious Journal of Conflict Resolution. But the backlash of criticism was formidable, and it was another 15 years before Davies’ research showing that results were replicated seven times over with different groups could be presented in another peer-reviewed journal.

Peace from the bottom up

It is precisely because of the closed-minded attitudes of mainstream scientific organizations and publications, mainstream politics and mainstream journalism, that individuals such as Maharishi, Hagelin and Davies are taking peace-creating initiatives to the streets, teaching individuals how to transform their personal lives and showing them how they can make a difference in the world.

“Our most important responsibility as citizens is to create peace in our own lives,” says Davies. “We have to move beyond hypocrisy if we’re going to make peace. You can’t impose peace in a complex society, such as we’re living in now, through simply dictating what’s right and what’s wrong while not living up to your own standards. The first step of responsibility, which applies to all of us, is to be able to look to our own lives and see if we’re living and being the peace we want to create.”

Davies works to create peaceful solutions to political rivalries around the world through conflict resolution with Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects. His organization helped resolve an often violent Peru — Ecuador conflict over disputed territory when private citizens of both nations agreed to meet at the Maryland headquarters. “The solution that came up in our workshops was, let’s make this a bi-national park that honors the people that have died on both sides fighting over this sacred ground, and have shared sovereignty,” says Davies. “So that met the needs of both sides — it was win-win — and was incorporated as the basis for an official peace agreement.”

His organization has also been involved in mitigating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis, contributing to an agreement on how the very limited water supplies there could be managed. Civilian workshops eventually arrived at a solution where people’s basic needs would be met at a low cost within budget parameters, while higher rates were established for irrigation and luxury use and water waste minimized. “Since those agreements emerged, water issues are no longer a deal breaker for a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” says Davies. “And that’s still the case.”

Davies is clear about the need for taking personal responsibility for creating peace. By uplifting one’s thoughts and expanding attitudes through meditation, people can prepare themselves to take a greater responsibility for world affairs. Changes in attitudes and widened perceptions are critical if a difference is to be made.

“We mistake the world for being some sort of zero sum place — we’re all fighting over limited resources,” he says. “But it’s not the resources that are limited. It’s the capacity to manage the resources well … and understand the human needs that are at stake. You’ve got to connect with people as human beings. From there, that and a little empathy allows you to be able to very quickly find ways of building partnerships that allow both side’s needs to be met.”

The Peace Government

After running for president on the Natural Law Party platform in 2000, Hagelin now eschews the regular political channels with their stubborn complexity, hierarchical structuring and lack of innovative thinking. As President of the US Peace Government, which is the US affiliate of the Global Country of World Peace founded by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in October 2002, Hagelin is busy building partnerships that carry grassroots peace efforts far beyond America’s shores. Literally a country without borders, the Global Country of World Peace is pulling together organizations, citizens and diplomats from around the world who hold the vision and who are willing to learn the scientifically proven principles and policies of governance under Natural Law.

According to Hagelin, the international diplomatic community in Washington D.C. has welcomed the existence of this essentially self-proclaimed Peace Government, and has been very active in visiting Hagelin’s D.C. offices for luncheons and planning projects — especially peace promoting projects in their own countries. “There are many countries in the world that are not particularly pleased with the current administration,” Hagelin says, “and are very eager to explore the possibility of relationships with an alternative government in the United States that is fundamentally concerned with their welfare and peace, and prevention of crime and promotion of education in their country.”

For more information uspeacegovernment.org [1]

1 John Davies, Ph.D. Co-Director, Partners in Conflict and Partners in Peacebuilding Projects, Center for International Development and Conflict Management, Department of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park MD

Source URL:
http://www.theglobalintelligencer.com/dec2007/soc-health/waging-peace
Links:
[1] http://www.uspeacegovernment.org/

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For more information on recent developments  on the theme, see the Flash Mob Meditation posts on this blog.

As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields

As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields

from The Centre of the Psyclone

A thought for World Vegan Day. World Vegan Day marks the start of World Vegan Month every year, commemorating the coining of the term, ‘vegan’ and the founding of The Vegan Society in November 1944.

We are the living graves of murdered beasts
Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites
We never pause to wonder at our feasts
If animals, like men, can possibly have rights
We pray on Sundays that we may have light
To guide our footsteps on the path we tread
We’re sick of war we do not want to fight
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread
And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat
Regardless of the suffering and pain
We cause by doing so.
If thus we treat Defenseless animals for sport or gain
How can we hope in this world to attain the PEACE we say we are so anxious for
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain
To God, while outraging the moral law
Thus cruelty begets its offspring: war.

 

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=GLs-L-1s8cg">http://youtube.com/watch?v=GLs-L-1s8cg</a>

The World Peace Diet

The Vegan Society