“Humanity needs to weep, and this is the time to weep,” declared Pope Francis at a World War I commemoration service last week.
He described how “even today, after the second failure of another world war, perhaps one can speak of a third war, one fought piecemeal, with crimes, massacres, destruction.” Stirring words, which hold true. There is a tangible feeling of instability which is justified by the hordes of images and reports detailing brutality and violence. The pressing conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine has continued to dominate the media.
However global conflict more widespread than popular opinion holds. In August, The Independent reported that only eleven countries in the world were not involved in any formof conflict (out of a total 162 reviewed by the Institute of Economics and Peace’s latest study if you are interested). Further to this the study showed that the world has become increasingly less peaceful year upon year since 2007, a fingers up to any progress made since the end of World War II.
I went to visit an elderly relative this weekend, and she started talking about the war, showing me photos of her old childhood home. She pointed out every detail from where her father had built a bomb shelter in the garden to that special hiding place behind a curtain in the living room, where desperately scavenged sustenance was stored in case of occupation.
Now on this Sunday afternoon, I have pottered about, gone for a run and snacked quite a bit. My life is blissfully unaffected. There may not be internal turmoil like an agonizing twisted ache in the gut of Britain, but we are implicated in the actions, decisions and choices we make at this critical time. And they have not gone unnoticed: Britain was ranked a poor 47th in a recent peace index.
I worry that we will only realise how far we have strayed from our idylls of post war peacetime when it is too late. As John Stewart, king of satire, tweeted “ranking [in peace index] to improve once we’ve all shot each other”.
Image courtesy of Freedom House via Flickr