After somehow surviving perhaps the bloodiest 100 years in human history, will we finally see the peace process work in the 21st century?
A British author and journalist, A.N. Wilson, observed recently that "the history of the twentieth century is the history of death and slaughter on a scale [of] which our forebears could have had no inkling. The millions killed by the folly and wickedness of politicians far outstrips the numbers in Africa and Asia who died of unnecessary starvation."
Yet, about halfway through 1999, the Anglo-American news media were generally optimistic in their judgment of the world's prospects for peace. For instance, the writers of The Economist summed up their view on the last day of July:
"On the face of it, this has been a good season for peace, and a good one for intervention. Over the past few weeks, agreements have been reached to end three of Africa's nastiest wars—in Congo, in Sierra Leone and between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
"And restraint has prevailed, with some help from outsiders, in the dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. And in Kosovo the West has put a stop to Serb ethnic cleansing. All of a sudden the world looks quieter. Those who have worked to end the violence—whether by diplomatic means, as in Kashmir, Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, or by military intervention, as in Kosovo, Sierra Leone—may feel encouraged. Blessed are the peace-makers" (emphasis added throughout).
The Economist article did not mention that considerable progress had apparently been made in the long-running dispute in Northern Ireland. More important, the Middle East peace process had taken a decided turn for the better with the olive branches offered by Ehud Barak, prime minister of Israel.
What a difference a year makes
But where are we now? Reading the morning papers is not an encouraging activity. Several recent stories have indicated that progress toward peace is not as advanced as the above analysis suggests.
For example, the war of words between India and Pakistan is escalating again. It would be foolhardy to imagine that these two neighboring countries have settled their long-running dispute over Kashmir. An exchange of firepower could come at any time—and nuclear weaponry could conceivably be used. A major article in the Financial Times stated, "Pakistan's General Pervez Musharraf and India's Atal Behari Vajpayee are perilously close to taking their countries into another war over the disputed state of Kashmir."
According to the same article: "India regards U.S. analysis of the situation as misguided" and says that "we are not going to be immobilised because of the nuclear factor." It also stated that "the mullahs-with-nukes scenario that so horrifies the U.S. cuts little ice in India."
The Angola war in the Congo area of Africa is another case in point. Never mind how many papers have been signed, the fighting has never ceased. The latest news is that government forces have captured a rebel center in the south. The Telegraph also alleged that the "Angolan leader keeps [the] country at war for profit." The Independent added that "escalation of the Angolan war could undermine Congo peace negotiations and lead to instability across the region."
Such are the ups and downs of the peace process. Kosovo, in southeastern Europe, is back in the news. Realistically, the supposed peace that NATO made possible has been punctuated by local massacres and continued "ethnic cleansings." The positive Economist article quoted above stated: "Even optimists admit that full-scale blood-letting will resume unless outside troops keep the combatants apart, certainly for years, maybe for decades."
To bring the Kosovo scene up to date: Violence recently erupted again as 70,000 Albanian protesters tried to storm the bridge that separates the Serbian and Albanian communities in the city of Mitrovica. Geographically, only the Ibar River keeps them apart.
The Observer dubbed this conflict "the unfinished war." So many wars seem never to fully end. Correspondent Tim Judah stated that "a year ago the world's eyes were focused on the slaughter of Kosovo. Now the TV crews have gone, but the agony remains." Mr. Judah "toured the torn cities and uneasy borders where all sides are braced for a return to guerrilla fighting." It is an uneasy peace at best.
In Northern Ireland the peace process has been at least temporarily halted by a dispute over the long-hoped-for decommissioning of Irish Republican Army (IRA) weapons. Said a Daily Mail editorial, "Why should anyone be surprised that the IRA has refused to hand over so much as a single bullet in the cause of peace?" A frantic scramble is underway among politicians to preserve the Good Friday Agreement.
The peace process in the Middle East has again temporarily been interrupted by Hezbollah attacks against Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon, jeopardizing a potential peace deal between Israel and Syria and hopes for lasting peace in war-torn Lebanon.
This article is far from a comprehensive study of all the world's trouble spots. For example, we have not assessed the events in Chechnya and East Timor—or the potential perils of Taiwan. China has again threatened military action in its continuing quest to bring Taiwan under its rule. Undoubtedly, more hot spots will erupt around the globe.
Where do we go from here?
Certainly the peace process as conceived by diplomats and government leaders has many tortuous twists and turns. Things seem to be better, then they get worse, and vice versa. The process can turn out to be incredibly deceptive. The Bible predicts a time when, just as the prospects for peace look most promising, war (on a huge scale) will suddenly break out.
Near the middle of the first century the apostle Paul wrote these sobering words: "... The day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, 'Peace and safety!' then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman" (1 Thessalonians:5:2-3).
Jesus said the end time would be like the days of Noah. But how so? People will be about the normal everyday business of living—buying and selling, building and planting, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage—that is, until the world explodes in an unparalleled barrage of troubles (Matthew:24:37-39).
This coming time will be like the time of Noah, when the Flood destroyed nearly all human life. There were no survivors outside the ark. We can be thankful that, at the end time, there will also be some survivors thanks to the work of God through His elect (Matthew:24:21-22).
The destruction that came on the pre-Flood world was sudden. Appearances just beforehand were deceiving, and people paid no attention to Noah's warnings (2 Peter:2:5). They simply didn't comprehend what was about to happen. They didn't have a clue as to the perilous nature of the times in which they lived.
Jesus told us the inhabitants of Sodom were similarly unaware of impending disaster just before the heavens rained fire and brimstone as a judgment against their ungodly ways of living. True, they were warned. But they simply didn't see or hear the warning, having ignored God's messenger, Lot (Luke:17:28-30).
Beware a counterfeit peace
A coming time of counterfeit world peace will seem so real just before a great time of trouble begins in deadly earnest. Jeremiah foresaw and was inspired to write of it: "They [the false prophets] have also healed the hurt of My people slightly [superficially], saying, 'Peace, peace!' when there is no peace" (Jeremiah:6:14). As the time of the end draws near, the world will be told that there is nothing really to worry about, that all will be well.
All will be well, but only after the second coming of Christ, who will establish and administer the Kingdom of God—the only hope of lasting peace. However, in this age of man ("this present evil age," Galatians:1:4), Christ warns us not to judge according to appearance. We have to look more deeply with the spiritual insights available through God's Word. We have to see beyond the superficial and often deceptive surface of current events.
Many people do not understand the principle of cause and effect. They live exclusively in the present, taking little notice of history and giving little thought to the future. Solomon said, "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes:8:11). It's easy to be fooled into thinking that the day of reckoning will never come.
That is one reason we publish The Good News. We earnestly desire to alert our readers to the perilous times that lie ahead, the consequence of the wholesale breaking of God's spiritual law—a wonderful law that would govern mankind for its benefit and make life really work.
As was the apostle Paul, we hope our readers will be among those who do take heed, and we therefore repeat his encouraging words of yesteryear, fully applicable today:
"But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day [the time of great trouble culminating in Jesus Christ's return] should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day ... Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober" (1 Thessalonians:5:4-6). GN