From the burning conflicts in Syria, Israel-Palestine, Iraq and Nigeria to the still-smoldering, post-conflict societies of Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Kosovo, a consistent lesson endures: peace cannot be imposed from a conference table but must emanate from the hearts of people.
On the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, GroundTruth executive director Charles Sennott heads an international reporting effort to try to understand the legacy of “the war to end all wars” and how the end of that war became known as “the peace to end all peace.”
In a series of commentary and analysis published parallel to reported stories from the field, Sennott and a team including Ron Haviv, HDS Greenway and Michael Moran present an exploration of divided cities around the world, looking at what works and what doesn’t in peace processes. And along the way it is clear that running through so many modern conflicts are the arrogant and imperialistic decisions made by the victors of World War I a century ago.
These conflicts include the current campaign of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to forcibly redraw the boundaries set by the Sykes-Picot Agreement in 1916, the continuing Christian-Muslim violence in Nigeria that traces back to the British Empire’s 1914 breaking of the country into North and South, as well as the intractable conflict in the Holy Land with partial roots in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and British Mandate of 1920.
In an era where history is often absent from public discourse when it is most needed, can world powers learn the lessons of peace that went unlearned after the guns fell silent on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh hour” on November 11, 1918?
Hope for resolving many of the modern world’s most pressing conflicts is dependent on the correct answer.