Today is a day of vigils for me and I suspect many other people. In the evening I will attend a vigil in Woolton and then at 10p.m. will join constituents at a vigil in St Barnabas Church, Penny Lane. Yesterday I attended a vigil at St George’s Plateau called at the request of people concerned at the deaths in Palestine.
Erica as Lord Mayor will be at the vigil at the Anglican Cathedral to commemorate, as will the other vigils, the start of World War One. That war was billed as the ‘war to end all wars’ but left almost a million British dead and more than 6 million dead in total as armies and navies from all over the world united to defeat tyranny.
We now know that it was not by any means the last war unimaginable though the suffering of that war was. We also know that the way that war was ended inexorably led to the Second World War and again millions of dead through war or through the holocaust.
Today’s events have not been called to blame anyone for what is happening in Palestine or for that matter Syria, Libya, Sudan or any of the other world hot spots where fighting continues. The nearly 300 innocents of all agencies and many countries who died in MH17 over the Eastern Ukraine were not warmongers or even in any way ‘the enemy. Like so many others caught up in suffering they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We are attending to show compassion for those who have died or those who are still suffering. Irrespective of whose fault the conflicts are they are surely not the fault of women and children.
As a parent and grandparent myself I can only imagine the despair of a parent or grandparent anywhere in the World and of any faith when they bury the body of a baby or child.
I have recently seen the discharge papers of my Grandfather who was a merchant seaman and transferred to the Royal Navy for the War. He was in and out of both branches of the service for more than 30 years. His discharge from one RN ship was signed by its Captain, Earl Beattie who went on to become First Sea Lord and was awarded the Freedom of the City by Liverpool City Council in the 20’s. Grandad went home and eventually spent his last 20 years of working life as a postman. He married the nurse who had helped him recover from his injuries sustained at sea. That in time led to me!!
We all know that fighting is not sustainable and not a way to bring peace. Sometime the fighting must stop and the talking must begin. We know from our experience just 100 miles from here in Northern Ireland that peace making is complex and time consuming but does eventually happen. The experience was the same in South Africa where peace came after 100 years of white oppression of blacks. It was the same in Rwanda where more than 1,000,000 people were slaughtered in just 100 days – more than 5% of the population but where people largely now live in peace.
In all those places the peace process was led by big men Like Mandela and De Klerk who overcame their own prejudices and more importantly the prejudices of their own communities before they could take on the prejudices of their opponents. In Northern Ireland people who had hated each other for generations came to the table to work together in a joint government based on proportionality but where there was a recognition of give and take.
But there are not always big men about. Today the last of the diplomats and EU citizens have left Libya three years after the conflict officially ended. It is now a Country which has descended into a series of fiefdoms largely dominated by ward lords. There is a similar story in Iraq where we appear to have won the war but lost the peace. A new extremist Caliphate is destroying Christian Churches and the mosques of other branches of the Islamic faith.
One can only wonder what the world would be like if there were more women leaders. So much of what we see is a testosterone fuelled grab for territory and power. Women leaders just do not act in such a fashion. We must also be concerned, as we were in Northern Ireland, when politics and religion get hopelessly intertwined and where the causes of one are used as the justification of the other.
We are lucky to live in an open and tolerant city in an open and tolerant country. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all Liverpool citizens when I say three things:
Firstly, the fighting must stop.
Secondly, the discussions must start; and lastly and for us most importantly.
Lastly, That Liverpool and its citizens will do their best through whatever mechanisms possible as soon as possible to help this much troubled area move to a prosperous and secure normality.
As the song goes, “All we are saying is give peace a chance”.