A centuries-old desire for peace in Europe

by Martina V. Kopecká last modified 10 July 2015 10:29 AM
A centuries-old desire for peace in Europe

Jan Hus monument, Prague. Photo: Václav Drašnar.

03 July 2015

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.“ Matthew 5,9

After century upon century of periodic warfare, the continent of Europe has, for the last 60 years or so, enjoyed a period of unprecedented peace. The most one can say for European peace is that since second world war no western European power has gone to war against another western European power. But are we on the real and deeply true way to reach, keep and develop justice and peace?

Personally, I am from Central Europe, from Prague, in the Czech Republic, and peace is a part of my daily life. I've never been present at any armed conflict.

Unfortunately the situation is not the same all over Europe. When you get on the train in the morning in Prague, the same afternoon you can arrive for example in Serbia, where innocent people suffer from conflicts every day.

My country, the Czech Republic, entered the European Union in 2004. Beside sustainable economical development, the European Union has a long-standing commitment to values such as human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, justice… and peace.

I am a member of Czechoslovak Hussite Church, and in the minds of many people the Hussite movement is connected with the pangs of wars and cruelty. But one Hussite leader, the Bohemian King George of Poděbrady attempted to secure peace with a suggestion which some consider to have been a proposal before its time of a “European Union”. He proposed a treaty among all Christian powers, with Germany (then including Bohemia), France, and Italy and its princes as the founding members, but open to others, especially the Hispanic powers, joining later.

The member states would pledge to settle all differences by exclusively peaceful means. There was to be a common parliament and other common institutions and supranational insignia.

George couched the proposal as a way to stop the "abominable Turk" who had conquered Constantinople in 1453. He sent Leo of Rozmital on a tour of European courts with a draft treaty to promote this idea. George hoped that the treaty would come into effect in 1464. That did not happen.

All George's endeavours to establish peace with Rome proved ineffectual, though Pius II's plan of a crusade against Bohemia remained unexecuted.

People in the medieval times had the same desire for peace as we have today.

On 6 July 2015, we mark six hundred years since the execution of Jan Hus, following the Constance Council Trial. When he stayed imprisoned in Constance, Jan Hus hoped he would have the opportunity to present a sermon about peace (Sermo de pace), where he wrote about the necessity of being reconciled with God and with oneself before trying to reconcile and build peace with the others.

According to Jan Hus, the justice of God and of his law is concord, humbleness, voluntary poverty, purity, patience and effective preaching of gospel. Hus proclaimed the values of truth, love and a pure way to Christ in the beginning of the fifteenth century, and his heritage is still live.

Connected with such a big ancestor, we as the Czechoslovak Hussite Church have to ask ourselves the question how to find a way to justice and peace, how to learn from old mistakes.

We faced as a nation the biggest challenge in connection with our relationship to Germans after the second world war.

When my grandparents were young it was inconceivable to have any friendly relations with Germans; nowadays I am in contact with many young people from Germany, we can talk about the past times and we are also able to create a future.

There are many organizations that devote their efforts to reconciliation. What  is our Christian approach?

There is a difference between tolerance and respect. When you tolerate something – it means you do not care, but when you have respect, you are enriched.

Education is an indivisible part of our role. We have to talk about the global situation. We – as Christians and as human beings – are all connected. Through open-hearted prayer and intercessions.

In Europe there are many ecumenical academies or Christian educational organizations that spread the ideas of respect and democracy. We have to educate children and prepare a new generation to continue our way to justice, peace and unity. We have to involve young generation to reach justice and peace.

Yes, we all are different. But we all are called to become the ambassadors of God´s peace.This peace is sometimes not similar to human peace – and that is why it is not necessary to enforce it by warfare. We should stay humble whilst serving people…

“The Simple Path
Silence is Prayer
Prayer is Faith
Faith is Love
Love is Service
The Fruit of Service is Peace” 
― Mother Teresa

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The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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