Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of World Armistice Day, commemorating the centenary of the day on which an agreement was signed to end World War I or WWI as we may refer to it in today’s high technology era. Armistice Day is commemorated every year on November 11 to mark the armistice signed between the allies of World War I and Germany. For the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, the armistice took effect at 11 o’clock in the morning—the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
The day is a national holiday in France, and to mark this centenary year, French President Emmanuel Macron convened a meeting of world leaders. But the United States President Donald Trump -- whose Republican Party was badly defeated in the mid-term elections last Tuesday to the US House of Representatives -- has snubbed the invitation to attend the peace conference.
Many of the invitees, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Germany’s Angela Merkel, are expected to attend the opening of the inaugural Paris Peace Forum, which Mr. Macron will host. Ending uncertainty about whether the US leader would participate, chief organiser Justin Vaisse confirmed to AFP on Thursday that Mr. Trump did not plan to attend.
In an interview earlier this week, Mr. Vaisse had played down the importance of Mr. Trump’s presence and said the forum was part of Mr. Macron’s efforts to organise a “fightback” against the threat of rising nationalism. “The aim of the forum is to show that there are lots of forces in the international system -- States, NGOs, foundations, intellectuals, companies -- which believe we need a world of rules, an open world and a multilateral world,” he said.
Mr. Macron has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump’s “America First” policies and of his decisions to pull out of international agreements such as the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and most recently a nuclear arms treaty.
The British Guardian newspaper says about nine million people were killed in World War I. In an editorial to mark the centenary, the newspaper quotes one of the wars leading historians David Reynolds as saying modern Britain – and indeed, as we believe most of the modern world – has “lost touch” with the first world war and the historical context in which it occurred.
Our view of the war is now, as he put it recently, a “tragic-poetic” one, shaped as much by Wilfred Owen and some iconic photographs as by the causes for which the combatants actually fought and the outcomes they would formalise at Versailles. Remembrance has long been extended to take in other conflicts too. Nevertheless, the first war still looms massively in the collective consciousness and in the stories of families. The release recently of Peter Jackson’s remarkable film ‘They Shall Not Grow Old’ – it will be screened on BBC2 tomorrow evening – has helped to make the war freshly vivid for new generations.
In Sri Lanka, we are still suffering in the aftermath of a 26-year civil war in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed or injured while the devastation caused is incalculable. More than nine years after the end of the war, we are still facing political turmoil with a showdown likely in Parliament next week.
We hope it will not result in huge street protests or violence because our major religions tell us violence does not cease by violence but by dialogue and accommodation on the middle path.
As holy scriptures tell us in symbolic terms, dialogue instead of war will lead to a haven of peace where the lion will lie down with the lamb, the wolf will be tamed, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together, and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put his or her hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy anyone.