Today's Mission of Freemasonry
- Call for a Masonic Institute for Peace -
"We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal right of men and women and of nations large and small....And for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors...have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims." - Preamble, Charter of the United Nations.
by Tom Goeller
This is going to be an analysis of peace from a German and a European perspective.
International law often defines peace simply as a "the state prevailing during the absence of war". In every day life, people understand by peace more tangibly "the absence of mental stress or anxiety" or "the general security of public places". The concept of peace ranks among the most controversial in our time. Peace undoubtedly carries a positive connotation even though Franklin D. Roosevelts vision of 194. "to end all wars, to end this inhuman and thoroughly impractical method of setting the differences between governments" is still unfulfilled and actually has been contradicted since then. The foundation of the United Nations at the end of World War II could not prevent 78 wars since 1945. Most of them were civil wars, civil wars, revolutions, rebellions, state violence against citizens, genocide and terrorist atrocities. I call it "wars of dictators" against their own people. This kind of "state violence" has become the worst and most wide spread type of war of modern times.
The Chinese cultural revolution of Mao Tse-Tung caused the death of 30 million people (source: the current Chinese government), but many died of hunger. Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini sent children to die in the war against Iraq. The worst genocide of recent times was committed by Hutus in Rwanda in 1995. Pol Pot in Cambodia has been responsible for the death of 1,7 million of his own people between 1975 - 1979. Saddam Hussein killed at least 600,000 Iraqis, Slobodan Milosovic about 180,000 in former Yugoslavia. Hafez Al-Assad, leader of Syria, killed probably 25,000 of his compatriots between 1980 and 2000 and so on (see list of wars at the end of the paper).
So, what actually causes such a "time of wars" we are living in?
Martin Luther King, Jr. did find an answer already forty years ago: "One of the most persistent ambiguities that we face is that everybody talks about peace as a goal. However, it does not take sharpest-eyed sophistication to discern that while everybody talks about peace, peace has become practically nobody's business among the power-wielders. Many men cry Peace! Peace! but they refuse to do the things that make for peace."
They refuse to do the things that make for peace! Too many people believe that peace is a diplomatic maneuvering, a series of talks and shuttle trips between countries, or a pile of documents signed in Paris or on the lawn of the White House, in Washington. Even though world peace is widely seen as one of the most noble goals of humanity, various nations, politicians and groups, however, differ sharply about what peace entails, how best to achieve it, and even if peace is truly possible. While Iran's current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who expressed doubts that the Holocaust occurred, suggested on December 8, 2005 Israel be moved to Europe and by such finding a "peaceful" solution for the Middle East crisis that is simmering for almost 60 years, for the Israelis, of course, and also for the civilized world such an ethnic cleansing cannot be a "peaceful" solution.
In this respect, for example, the often quoted phrase of Benjamin Franklin "There was never a good war or a bad peace" couldn't be more wrong. We not only live in a time of wars, we also live in a time of bad peace(s): There is bad peace in many states of Latin America, from Haiti, where international forces have to prevent people from slitting each other throats down to Columbia, a country ridden by civil war for no less than 50 years to name only the two worst cases of the western Hemisphere. And what about the 22 states of the Arab world where many peoples are at odds with their reckless autocratic leaders but turn their anger and frustration against the West. Most of the states of sub-saharan Africa are in notorious turmoil with almost daily tribal clashes and genocides. And even at the south-eastern rim of Europe, where the mini states of former communist Yugoslavia need the stationing of a massive force of foreign troops to keep "peace" between the peoples. Where's the difference to Haiti?
Basically all has to do with the different meanings of the same word "peace". Let me explain it with another example. When 19 Islamist terrorists of 9/11 crashed three airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or when young Palestinians blow themselves up in a bus in Tel Aviv, often Arab media, politicians and the public opinion consider those murderers "martyrs". This conception of a martyr differs from the common Western idea, derived from Christianity. A Christian martyr is someone who is killed for his faith, without bringing his own death upon himself or harming or killing other people. The notion of a "martyr" as someone who kills others viewed as enemies of the faith, and in the process gets himself killed, is a distinctly new construction of the turbid thinking of the Middle East.
While both, the Western and the Oriental world use the word "martyr" it doesn't have the same meaning for both of them. And that is the case as well with the word and the meaning of peace.
We need an international accepted definition of what peace is about. As long as humankind is unable to verbally formulate peace it cannot have peace as a common goal and it will be impossible to achieve it ever! Since Freemasons think and act globally, they can and should become spearheads of a movement that pressures for such a universally accepted definition of peace. But most of all: Freemasonry in itself "is antagonistic to war", as Mackey expressed it in his Encyclopedia. Or as Bro. Albert Pike said, "Masonry is the great peace society of the world. Wherever it exists, it struggles to prevent international difficulties and disputes."
Those insights of our great brethren Mackey and Pike can also be seen as an obligation for us, today. Right now, where Pike's vision of Freemasonry is badly needed, where the Western world if not the world itself is challenged every day by increasing radicalism in the Islamic world we know: except of Turkey, which is a democracy, and except of the moderate Arab kingdom of Morocco, Masonry does not exist in the Muslim world because it is strictly forbidden by the particular rulers. We also know by now: Where there is no freemasonry there is no freedom. Where there is no freedom there is no justice and prosperity and therefor no peace.
So, will it ever be feasible to live in a world of peace? So many great thinkers and institutions, so many outstanding practitioners, researchers and writers of all times tried to make the entire world a save place where humankind can live in peace but failed. So many exemplary wise men and women tried to define "peace" but they didn't change the world. "Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind", John F. Kennedy said during his short presidency but lead his country into the Vietnam war. However, he was right in the first place!
If you desire Peace, create Love
But more important to me is what Martin Luther King, Jr. understood by the first step to peace, what we can call "pre-peace": "At the center of non-violence stands the principal of love". And love is a universally cherished feeling for which there is no necessity to define it or explain what love is about. The definition of love is self-evident. "All we need is love", John Lennon sang in the 1970ies. How true. And how naive and idealistic. But do we have another chance?
Love is a center piece of Christianity as well as of Islam and Judaism. In a time of wars and bad peaces, the powerful of this world often exploit the feelings of hatred, jealousy, intolerance and violence in their nations. But as we can see day by day, the world is not getting better with this strategy but worse, more dangerous and constantly at the rim of a new crisis, new wars. It is obvious, that the strategy of hatred - which is the opposite of love - doesn't work. It simply does not work.
This is, why the opposite of hatred, love, is not idealistic, is not naive. In fact, it is the alternative to the current political and economical miss-management and mess on the world stage. And don't tell me, it won't work. There is one encouraging example of modern times where the strategy of love worked. It worked like a miracle up today! In Europe. There, it is not called "love" but "reconciliation". However, the idea behind the strategy was and still is the same: "Love thy neighbor".
The European Union is without any doubts an unprecedented success story in modern history. This fact is often overlooked because the peaceful unification of once so troublesome Europe (American pundits of the 20th century often called the European powers "scorpions") is overshadowed in today's public opinion by international terrorism and the dominant US foreign policy. Sometimes, to be able to look forward, it is necessary to look back:
Following the devastation of World0 War I and II - in essence European Civil Wars - Western Europe embarked to create a new European order. Six states joined the European Coal and Steel Community in 1950: France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and tiny Luxembourg. These six agreed to submit themselves to a union of higher authority. Seemingly unprecedented in European history, this supranational power over now largely democratic member states established a "community spirit" that moved Europe's peaceful integration forward and helped that an also unprecedented peaceful revolution could take place in Eastern Germany in 1989 which lead a year later to the reunification of both German parts. No single shot was fired, no single person died while the iron curtain broke down in the night of November 9, 1989. The same occurred after the desintegration of the entire "East Block" and the Soviet Union. The EU stepped up to keep Eastern Europe peaceful and stable by inviting the new states to become members of the western union. Yet, who, today, is acknowledging this outstanding fact? Don't be fooled by momentary cynicism in light of current economic stagflation or the traditional euroskepticism of the British. Europe overcame similar sentiments a couple of times in the past six decades because Europe tasted what demise is about. Germany, as a nation, did not exist for three years after World War II. Entire cities were extinguished, medieval Nuremberg was destroyed by more than 80 per cent. Almost nothing that looks old today in old German cities is older than 60 years. Same is true for Warsaw, the Polish capital. All the historic German and Polish city palaces are rebuild copies!
Because of the breath taking extend of the devastation of World War II in Europe and the unbelievable loss of lives, ethnic cleansing and the shoah (holocaust), the Europeans eventually understood: the strategy of war and hatred and jealousy lead them into nemesis. The only alternative left was: reconciliation and love. It worked. Today, as a citizen of the European Union, I can travel freely thru all member sates, I am welcome to live and work wherever I want to. No significant restrictions and barriers are left. And where ever I go to, I am welcomed with open arms. Once arch enemies for a thousand years, France and Germany for example discussed in 2003 plans to merge their countries into one - one day. In Europe at least it looks like that the 18th century German philosopher Emanuel Kant's vision of perpetual peace and prosperity has come true.
But too many state leaders, Europeans in particular, are too timid and too hesitant to extend this great and exemplary historic success to other regions of the world. I don't know why. But I know, someone has to take the lead, someone or someones! We, the freemasons could be the right universal and international group of people to head a campaign to swing the balance from war to peace - to a good peace. To be technically able to do this, I suggest the founding of an international "Masonic Institute for Peace".
Why another Peace institute if there are so many already? Yes, there are many institutions and organizations that bear the word "peace" in their name and express that they take care of peace: There is the Peace Corps that traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then-Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. Let's face it: I am sorry to say, the effect of the Peace Corps and similar developing aid organizations in the West is almost zero, today. At least concerning the progress of peace in those parts of the world.
There is the international organization called Greenpeace. It exists "because this fragile Earth deserves a voice", as the organization describes itself.
Greenpeace is a non-profit organization, with a presence in 40 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. As a global organization, Greenpeace focuses on the most crucial worldwide threats to our planet's bio-diversity and environment. But it is unable to create or maintain peace. In fact, Greenpeace sometimes acts aggressively to achieve short term goals but does not secure peace. There is a Peace College in Raleigh, North Carolina. But what are they actually teaching there? There's the United States Institute of Peace which claims to be "an independent, nonpartisan federal institution created by Congress to promote the prevention, management, and peaceful resolution of international conflicts". Hear, hear. Established in 1984, the Institute meets its congressional mandate through an array of programs, including research grants, fellowships, professional training, education programs from high school through graduate school, conferences and workshops, library services, and publications. The Institute's Board of Directors is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. But what are its results? The US stations hundreds of thousands of troops overseas, 130.000 are currently in Iraq. 60 years after WW II, still 80.000 US troops are in Germany. What is the result of the US Institute of Peace?
And the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace , another of the private, nonprofit organization is also "dedicated to advancing cooperation between nations and promoting active international engagement by the United States". Founded already in 1910, "its work is dedicated to achieving practical results", says the press department of the institute. Well --
There's more: The Peace Brigades International (PBI) is a non-governmental organization which is dedicated to "protect human rights and promotes nonviolent transformation of conflicts". Walter Cronkite is lobbying for a US Department of Peace. More than sixty Congress members have now signed on to co-sponsor the bill in the House of Representatives, and Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) has introduced the bill already into the Senate (S. 1756). Sounds good. The outcome of the project however remains to be seen.
In addition , there are more than 300 peace prizes in the world. None is in any way as well known and as highly respected as the Nobel Peace Prize . Founded as an international award given yearly since 1901, the official committee declares that "the ways and means to achieve peace are as diverse as the individuals and organizations rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize". Henry Dunant, founder of the Red Cross, shared the first prize in 1901 with Frédéric Passy, leading international pacifist of the time.
One important element of the record of the prize has been the committee's broad definition of peace, enough to take in virtually any relevant field of the slightest "peace work", which lead to some very controversial choices. But the prizes neither were able to prevent World War I or II. Presenting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995 to Rabin and Arafat alike caused one to be assassinated and the other one walked out in Camp David in summer 2000 to start an "intifada". Peace is still in waiting for the Middle East. There were two US Presidents who were awarded with the peace prize, the first among them was Bro. Theodore Roosevelt in 1906.
Other Masons followed: in 1926 the two Masons and Foreign Ministers, Aristide Briand of France and Gustav Stresemann of Germany shared the peace prize for their outstanding work on reconciliation between the two countries which, however, did not prevent Hitler to take over Germany couple of years later. Carl von Ossietzki, a Mason and an anti-militarist German journalist held by the Nazis in a concentration camp, got the prize in absence in 1935 but died 17 months later in captivity. The most prominent of all "peace-nicks" and pacifists, Mahatma Ghandi, never got the Nobel Peace prize.
This is - with all due respect to the prize committee- why one has to look at it also cirtically. The Norwegian Nobel Committee never formally defined "peace," in practice it came to rather interpret the term ever more broadly, sometimes badly. This approach had its pitfalls and we know there have been some Laureates that perhaps should not have received the prize. Most of all however, the committee sometimes was and most likely will not be free of national Norwegian interests: For example, to honor Arafat, Peres and Rabin, has well served Norwegian state interests in the sense that their selection fitted well into government policy. And hasn't the first glimps of peace for the Middle East in the 199ies been called "Oslo agreement"? The non-award to Gandhi may also have been influenced by Norway's close relationship to Britain during World war II and with the award for German chancellor Willy Brandt and his "Ostpolitik" the Norwegians honored the German socialist as one of them, because when Brandt was 20, he left Germany and came to Norway as a political refugee from the Nazis.
I certainly cherish the efforts of all the above mentioned organizations to achieve the final goal of universal peace, no matter on what level. What I am however critical of, is: All of them lacks a deeper sense for what peace in my understanding is about. Those who are Christians know Matthew 5:38-39: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." There are US pundits who would call me naive, arguing: "There is no equivalent in the Koran to the New Testament's admonition to 'turn the other cheek' but there is a Koranic injunction to 'Kill the disbelievers wherever you find them'. To offer your other cheek would simply be foolish". Correct. That's why six million Jews died in the shoah. But to take an eye for an eye in the end leaves us all blind, right?
And there is- of course ! - Abdul Ghaffar Khan, this wonderful Pashtun (Afghan) political and spiritual leader known for his nonviolent opposition to British rule on the Indian sub-continent. He was a lifelong pacifist and a devout Muslim! If no one else keeps the memory about him alive, if today's radical Islamists ignore him lest they can better high-jack the religion of Islam and spread their wicked version of "Islamic hatred" , it is our obligation, as a brotherhood that comprises men of all religions, to remind the world of Ghaffar Khan's insights: "The Holy Prophet Mohammed came into this world and taught us: 'That man is a Muslim who never hurts anyone by word or deed, but who works for the benefit and happiness of God's creatures. Belief in God is to love one's fellow men'."
"To love thy neighbor" and "to love one's fellow men" is an ancient and universal wisdom. And if Christians and Muslim and Jews cannot live up to their own wisdom, it might be a job left to us, the universal brotherhood of Masons, to explain and to exercise what this ancient wisdom is about. Don't we learn and teach that the builders of King Solomon's Temple, the early masons, had only one aspiration, and one hope, namely, the establishment of universal amity among all men? Every Masonic lodge is a temple of peace. In it, men of different religions and stations in life meet together, and on its altars, the sacred scriptures of all faiths are placed. That's the big difference to any religion which is by nature exclusive and intolerant. That's also the big difference to politics of all governments on this planet because politics is by nature nationalistic, oriented to serve the well being of nation, not of humankind.
But in our lodges, the spirit of harmony and cooperation prevails. The Masonic teachings of equality and fraternity are the only tie that can bind the entire human family together, and create a world order based on brotherly love and peace. To make peace on earth, one must know the source of all peace. And I think, the Masons know this source well: Real peace can only come from the hearts of men. And it must be practiced - as we do. "Love is the only force capable of turning an enemy into a friend", taught Martin Luther King, Jr. If we take his wisdom serious it turns our phrase we use during the closing ceremony of our lodges "may brotherly love prevail" into a strategy. A strategy for peace.
For all those reasons, I plead for an Institute for Peace, based on our Masonic knowledge and able to spread the seeds into all countries. Then, maybe, Emanuel Kant's vision of perpetual peace might finally be achieved for all.
Do I hear: " So moet it be"?
List of wars and conflicts and number of casualties since 1945
1946-49: Chinese civil war (1.2 million)
1946-49: Greek civil war (50,000)
1946-54: France-Vietnam war (600,000)
1947: Partition of India and Pakistan (1 million)
1948-1958: Colombian civil war (200,000)
1948-1973: Arab-Israeli wars (70,000)
1948-: Kashmir's civil war (40,000)
1949-: Indian Muslims vs Hindus (20,000)
1950-53: Korean war (4 million)
1952-59: Kenya's Mau Mau insurrection (20,000)
1954-62: French-Algerian war (1 million)
1958-61: Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (38 million)
1960-90: South Africa vs Africa National Congress (?)
1960-96: Guatemala's civil war (200,000)
1961-2003: Kurds vs Iraq (180,000)
1962-75: Mozambique Frelimo vs Portugal (?)
1964-73: USA-Vietnam war (3 million)
1965: second India-Pakistan war over Kashmir
1965-66: Indonesian civil war (200,000)
1966-69: Mao's "Cultural Revolution" (11 million)
1966-: Colombia's civil war (31,000)
1967-70: Nigeria-Biafra civil war (800,000)
1968-80: Rhodesia's civil war (?)
1969-79: Idi Amin, Uganda (300,000)
1969-02: IRA - Norther Ireland's civil war (2,000)
1969-79: Francisco Macias Nguema, Equatorial Guinea (50,000)
1971: Pakistan-Bangladesh civil war (500,000)
1972-: Philippines vs Muslim separatists (120,000)
1972: Burundi's civil war (300,000)
1972-79: Rhodesia/Zimbabwe's civil war (30,000)
1974-91: Ethiopian civil war (1,000,000)
1975-78: Menghitsu, Ethiopia (1.5 million)
1975-79: Khmer Rouge, Cambodia (1.7 million)
1975-89: Boat people, Vietnam (250,000)
1975-90: civil war in Lebanon (40,000)
1975-87: Laos' civil war (184,000)
1975-2002: Angolan civil war (500,000)
1976-83: Argentina's military regime (20,000
1976-93: Mozambique's civil war (900,000)
1976-98: Indonesia-East Timor civil war (600,000)
1976-: Indonesia-Aceh (GAM) civil war (12,000)
1979: Vietnam-China war (30,000)
1979-88: the Soviet Union invades Afghanistan (1.3 million)
1980-88: Iraq-Iran war (1 million)
1980-92: Sendero Luminoso - Peru's civil war (69,000)
1980-92: El Salvador's civil war (75,000)
1980-99: Kurds vs Turkey (35,000)
1981-90: Nicaragua vs Contras (60,000)
1982-90: Hissene Habre, Chad (40,000)
1983-2002: Sri Lanka's civil war (64,000)
1983-2002: Sudanese civil war (2 million)
1987-: Palestinian Intifada (4,500)
1988-2001: Afghanistan civil war (400,000)
1988-2004: Somalia's civil war (550,000)
1989-: Liberian civil war (220,000)
1989-: Uganda vs Lord's Resistance Army (30,000)
1991: Gulf War - large coalition against Iraq to liberate Kuwait (85,000)
1991-97: Congo's civil war (800,000)
1991-2000: Sierra Leone's civil war (200,000)
1991-: Russia-Chechnya civil war (200,000)
1991-94: Armenia-Azerbaijan war (35,000)
1992-96: Tajikstan's civil war war (50,000)
1992-96: Yugoslavia's civil war (260,000)
1992-99: Algerian civil war (150,000)
1993-97: Congo Brazzaville's civil war (100,000)
1993-2005: Burundi's civil war (200,000)
1994: Rwanda's civil war (900,000)
1995-: Pakistani Sunnis vs Shiites (1,300)
1995-: Maoist rebellion in Nepal (12,000)
1998-: Congo/Zaire's war - Rwanda and Uganda vs Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia (3.8 million)
1998-2000: Ethiopia-Eritrea war (75,000)
1999: Kosovo's liberation war - NATO vs Serbia (2,000)
2001: Afghanistan's liberation war - USA & UK vs Taliban (25,000)
2002-: Cote d'Ivoire's civil war (1,000)
2003: Iraq's liberation war - USA, UK and Australia vs Saddam Hussein (14,000)
2003-: Sudan vs JEM/Darfur (180,000)
2003-: Iraq's civil war (30,000)
2004-: Sudan vs SPLM & Eritrea (?)