The Brotherhood of Man—Just a Dream?
IT HAPPENED during the last few days of December of that momentous year 1914. The initial savage onslaughts of the first world war had spent themselves, costing—in only five months—about three and a half million casualties.
On the night of December 24, at the front near Ypres, Belgium, a British platoon was ordered to erect posts and wire 40 yards (37 m) from the German trenches. To the amazement of the British, not a shot was fired from the German line. The next day, hundreds of men on both sides climbed out of their trenches and fraternized in no-man’s-land, exchanging greetings and souvenirs.
What had happened? Here, as elsewhere along the front, the festive season had turned the minds of the war-weary men to a deep-felt desire for peace and friendship.
But it was not to be. The nations fought out World War I to its bitter end, with a cost of millions of lives and incalculable misery. That fleeting glimpse of brotherhood was just a dream. And the dream was further shattered by World War II. Today, instead of a dream, hostile forces and weapons of mass annihilation cause a horrible nightmare.
Efforts at Forming Brotherhoods
The history of man has been a long, sad sequence of bloodshed and violence. Yet many people have hoped for a brotherhood of mankind. For example, the French Revolution of 1789 stirred the people of France with the slogan “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” (“Freedom, Equality, Brotherhood”). But a few years later, France’s Napoleon Bonaparte bathed Europe in blood.
Down through history, fraternities (brotherhoods) and sororities (sisterhoods) of many types have flourished. But they have lacked the characteristics of a true universal brotherhood. For example, Freemasonry, a well-known international brotherhood, is secretive and open only to men.
Obviously, all such efforts have never achieved a brotherhood of mankind. But consider for a moment: what if this idea could be transformed from just a dream into a practical reality? What a difference it would make! A real international brotherhood would put an end to frontiers, political and religious rivalries, hatred between nations and races. Wars, terrorism and all the factors causing the frightfully dangerous conditions in the world today would be eliminated.
Would you like to see that? Of course. But you may say: ‘That could never be. History shows that the idea of all people being brothers is no more than a dream.’ And from the viewpoint of man’s past and present record, you would be right.
A Higher View
However, there is another viewpoint to be considered, one that makes all the difference. To illustrate: If you were lost in a dense jungle and could find no way out, your life would be in danger. However, someone in an airplane overhead might clearly see the way out and, with radio contact, guide you. That elevated view could mean the difference between life and death.
Today many people see no way out of this world’s growing problems. Therefore it is urgent, indeed a life or death matter, to consider the situation from an elevated viewpoint—from the viewpoint of the Almighty God. Concerning him, an inspired prophet wrote: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For with rejoicing you people will go forth, and with peace you will be brought in.”—Isa. 55:9, 12.
However, before discussing the Creator’s lofty view of the formation of true brotherhood, we can ask: What has made it impossible from man’s viewpoint?
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Napoleon’s conquests shattered the dream of fraternity