Peace in our time: it can be done
There were two events that captured my attention over the semester break. One was very much in the public eye, dominating newspapers and televisions as it has done for most of the year. The second went by quietly, hardly being acknowledged beyond the country in which it was important. Funnily enough though, the one story may have a lesson to offer the other and, boy, does it need some teaching.
The first was Queen Elizabeth’s meeting (and shaking hands) with Martin McGuinness in Belfast, a truly historical occasion. McGuinness would no doubt be considered one of the villains of the late twentieth century in Britain. As a high level commander of the IRA he was responsible, directly or otherwise, for a number of deaths and even more injuries as his organisation embarked on a campaign of terror throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. The second story that captured my attention was the, now critical, situation in Syria. How could it not? There is barely a soul on this planet who hasn’t heard of President Assad or witnessed the horrific images of his regime’s attempt to cling onto power.
Now you might think me stupid for suggesting that these two events have anything in common. On the one hand you have a despot, devoid of sentiment and drunk on power, systematically slaughtering his own people. On the other, you have attempts at reconciliation and building foundations for a prosperous friendship between to former enemies. That’s the lesson here, no matter how bad things get, the human capacity to love is far stronger than the one to hate. That is what the international community should be striving to show Assad, show him the good in humanity, show him that his way is the wrong way. He cannot grip onto power forever, and no matter how much damage he does, his people will find hope in the fact that there position is far stronger than his.
What’s more though is that the meeting in Belfast showed that we cannot be enemies forever. At one point we need to acknowledge our differences and move forward. That time is coming for Assad, the time where he will need to recognise that his people want democracy, they want freedom. Their hope for a brighter future is far stronger than his grip to power.
If you go through life with vengeance, hatred, greed and tyranny you are not long for this world. The human race has long outlasted characters like Assad. From Rwanda to World War II the human capacity to heal has shone through. So when we look at Syria let’s be sad in the knowledge that the very worst in mankind is on display, but let’s also be hopeful in the knowledge that the good will always win out. It is far easier to love than to hate. Once Assad realises this and steps aside his country will be able to heal. Until then, he should know that all through all the hurt and suffering, his people will endure, once they have outwitted him, he will not.