PREVENTING WARS IN THE NUCLEAR AGE
Reverence for Life More Necessary than Ever
By Lena Brunner
[This article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.zeit-fragen.ch/
. All the quotations are from “What is Reverence for Life? Encounter with Albert Schweitzer.”]
“The mission of the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) is to protect and support the civilian and military victims of armed conflicts and domestic violence in a strictly neutral and impartial way.” (Brochure of the ICRC “Discovery the ICRC,” August 2001). The work of the ICRC and the National Red Cross associations is of inestimable value for populations stricken by war or catastrophes. The Red Cross was the first humanitarian relief organization. The civilian population suffers grievously during and after war when peace is finally concluded.
After the Second World War, Europe was flooded by 60 million refugees and kidnapped persons – including 13 million orphans. The half-starved and martyred civilian population was plagued by epidemics. Famines threatened in some countries. Medical supplies were scarce for everyone. Villages and cities were reduced to dust and rubble. Family men, fathers and sons were killed, registered as missing or held captive somewhere in prisons. In addition, the winter months were unusually harsh. In Germany alone, 100,000 children lost their families in the war fury. Organizing food, clothing, shelter and finding family members were vital. Helping in untiring, painstaking work was crucial. For example, the Danish Red Cross began inoculating the population in Poland against tuberculosis. Other national committees of the Red Cross later inoculated people in many countries of Europe.
Youth Red Cross groups helped all over the world by sewing clothes for children or collecting money for schools in destroyed cities. Special attention was given to the most helpless victims of war, children. Beside adequate food, medical provisions, clothing and rehabilitation, the relatives of the children were sought. By 1950, 58,000 children in Germany were reunited with parents or close relatives.
Are we really clear what war means with all its dreadful consequences? The irreparable damages through uranium ammunitions to people, animals and the whole environment are added today to all the suffering and devastation.
“Because a war in our time would obviously be a terrible evil, everything should be tried to prevent this. In the last two wars, we were guilty of horrific inhumanity. This culpability will continue in a coming war. This tormenting common experience must shake us to do everything until there are no wars any more.”
Today we are called to stop and ponder what is essential in this depressing and alarming time. To listen and sympathize, to think, help and work effectively without resignation, we need clear heads and open hearts. Albert Schweitzer’s illuminating writings, especially “Reverence for Life,” are most warmly recommended to everyone – young and old.
“As a wave cannot exist for itself but always shares in the waves of the ocean, we can never experience our life for ourselves alone but only in the shared experience of life occurring around us. The ethic of reverence for life demands that we do something for people. Those who cannot do their utmost in their occupations as people for people are expected to sacrifice something of their time and leisure. Create a branch office. Open your eyes and seek where a person needs a little time, a little friendliness, a little sharing, a little society or a little work of a person. Perhaps he is a lonely person, an embittered person, a sick person or an unskilled for whom you can be something. Perhaps he is a senior or a child. Perhaps a good work needs volunteers who sacrifice a free evening or take walks. Who can enumerate all the uses of the precious enterprising capital, the person? Seek a place to use your humaneness. Don’t be deterred if you must wait or experiment. Be prepared for disappointments! Create a branch office that confirms you as a person for persons. Such an office is appointed for you if only you are willing.”
“All of us have to struggle to become truly peaceful.”
“The goal which you must have in view from now to the future is that the answers in all questions polarizing people must be found in peaceful conversation and not left to wars any more. War is something that cannot be considered any more. Before our time when weapons still had a limited effect, pacifism could be smiled at as a utopia. In the present time when weapons can destroy millions of people in a single battle and produce a deadly poisoned atmosphere, peace has become an urgent necessity. Listening to the voices of persons who are truly occupied with the coming of peace is a good deed in our day. Honoring the ideal of humanity in the world is imperative. This is a spiritual policy that must go together with all practical plans and actions. Through this policy, a spiritual solidarity among people can be created.”
“Persons of little faith may doubt that such spiritual and ethical conversion can occur. Why should we doubt this? Humaneness is our true nature. As soon as we earnestly reflect, we cannot do anything but decide for the attitude of humaneness.”
“The ethic of reverence for life arose in our time, is at home in it and adjusts to its needs and demands.”