Let’s start with a dictionary definition:
‘Peace’ is a period of harmony between different social groups.
It is characterised by a lack of violence or conflict behaviours, and
the freedom from fear of violence. Commonly understood, peace is the
absence of hostility and retribution; but peace also suggests sincere
attempts at reconciliation; the existence of healthy or newly-healed
interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of
social or economic welfare, the establishment of equality, and a working
political order that serves the true interests of all.
Peace. We all want peace. Recently, a world-renowned historian looked
at the history of the world. And he asked a simple question, ‘How much
of human history has been overwritten by war and therefore a lack of
peace?’ It’s a difficult calculation, because we don’t actually know the
history of most of the world before, say, the fifteenth century –
though records do exist, such as the Bible and the so on. In other
words, the record is incomplete.
Nevertheless, our historian studied the history of the world and
crossed out those dates during which the world knew war. So he crossed
out four whole years from September 1914 to the 11th of November 1918.
He crossed out nearly six years from 1939 to 1945. To crossed out nearly
a hundred years of war between Britain and France, covering the whole
reign of Napoleon; more than a hundred more years of war between Britain
and France that started during the reign of Edward III in the 1300s. He
crossed out the many Boer Wars; the Two Opium Wars; the wars of Genghis
Khan in what is today’s China; the American Civil War; the English
Civil War; the Wars of the Roses; the wars of independence in America,
Africa, and the Middle East, and the Pacific Rim. He crossed out the war
in Afghanistan which is now longer than both the First World War and
the Second World War combined. He will have crossed out the civil war in
Sudan, which is officially the longest-lasting war in the world today,
and which started before I was born in the early 1960s.
The result? Our historian found there have been only 26 days of
world-wide peace since the end of World War II in 1945. That’s less than
And he found that the longest unbroken length of peace ever—as far as
recorded history is concerned—the longest period is SIX days in length.
And it was many centuries ago.
Six days. That’s the length of time in the Bible between God starting
creation and the first day of rest. It’s the length of time a man can
go without any food before his system is damaged beyond repair. It’s the
longest ever period recorded of a person going without sleep. Six days.
Six days is also the length of time between the end of today’s
service and the next day on which we have a full sung service of worship
in this Church. So as we long for peace and think of peace, pray for
peace and yearn for peace, perhaps the first thing we can do is work for
peace during this coming week. Your week will differ from my week in
terms of its content, and insofar as you’ll meet different people from
the people I meet.
We have six days in which to avoid warfare in our own hearts.
Today is Remembrance Sunday, when we remember the ravages of war and
the terrors and effects of War. We think of those who died and those who
survived but were never the same again. We pledge ourselves to work
against the effects of war.
And as a first step, we pledge ourselves to
last just seven days without war in our own hearts.