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Page 14
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A Call to Law Down Arms and Recognize Our Common Humanity

By Susan Schnall

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December 2014 will mark 100 years since the World War I 1914 Christmas Truce. On this sacred centenary, let's build a peace to end war. December 2014 is an opportunity to pay homage to the peacemakers of 1914. Join the Veterans Peace Council in calling on warring factions, sects, and nations to lay down arms, recognize our common humanity and find the road to peace.

On Christmas Eve 1914, ordinary soldiers made temporary peace with their enemies, causing the Western Front to fall silent. The truce broke out spontaneously in many places, with soldiers emerging from their trenches, exchanging cigarettes and gifts, singing Christmas carols, burying their dead, and, in some places, participating in impromptu soccer games.

It was an extraordinary event—a peace created by soldiers. Then hostilities resumed. By the end of World War I there were over 16 million deaths and 20 million wounded; military and civilian casualties totaled over 37 million.

World War I "began" on June 28, 1914, when Serbian nationalists assassinated the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, setting off a succession of events in the governments of Germany, Great Britain, France, Italy, Austria, Serbia, and Russia with demands and time lines that led to the mobilization of armies and begin World War I by the summer of 1914. A cartoon from that time illustrates the "Chain of Friendship," depicting the web of alliances: "if Austria attacks Serbia, Russia will fall upon Austria, Germany upon Russia, and France and England upon Germany."

Theories abound regarding the cause of the War: changes in the balance of world power, diplomatic clashes between the Great Powers, growth of nationalism across Europe, arms races, imperial and colonial rivalry for wealth, power and prestige, in addition to economic and military rivalry in industry and trade.

The Western Front was a static line of trench systems which stretched from the coast of the North Sea southwards to the Swiss border and consisted of hastily dug out trenches with barbed wire entanglements. Armies employed huge artillery bombardments followed by attacks of tens of thousands of soldiers. The principal adversaries were Germany to the east against France and the United Kingdom to the west.

On December 24th, 1914, soldiers began to sing Christmas chorals and approach each other across the wide trenches of battle. It was a peace that lasted 24 hours. Its power lies in the idea that we can bring about peace and justice in this world. So let us honor and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the soldiers' call to peace. For additional information contact:

Veterans Peace Council

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