An End to War
‘We are only 12 years old. We can’t influence politics and the war, but we want to live! We wait for peace. Will we live to see it?’—A class of fifth-grade schoolchildren
‘We want to attend school and to visit our friends and family without fear of abduction. I hope the government will listen. We want a better life. We want peace.’—Alhaji, age 14
THESE poignant words convey the heartfelt hope of young people who have suffered for years as a result of civil strife. Their only desire is to live a normal life. But converting hope into reality is no easy task. Will we ever live to see a world without war?
In recent years, there have been international efforts to resolve some civil wars by pressuring opposing sides to sign a peace accord. Some countries have provided peace-keeping forces to effect such agreements. But few nations have the money or the inclination to police faraway countries where deep-seated hatred and suspicion make any agreement between warring factions fragile at best. Not infrequently, the flames of conflict flare up again just a few weeks or months after a cease-fire is signed. As the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute points out, “peace is difficult to achieve when combatants have the will and capacity to continue to fight.”
At the same time, these intractable conflicts that plague so many parts of the earth remind Christians of a Bible prophecy. The book of Revelation speaks of a critical period in history during which a symbolic horseman would “take peace away from the earth.” (Revelation 6:4) This picture of unremitting warfare is part of a composite sign that indicates that we are now living in a time described in the Bible as “the last days.”* (2 Timothy 3:1) God’s Word assures us, however, that these last days are a prelude to peace.
The Bible explains at Psalm 46:9 that real peace requires an end of war, not in just one region of the globe, but in all the earth. Furthermore, this same psalm specifically mentions the destruction of the weapons of Bible times—the bow and the spear. The weapons that proliferate nowadays must likewise be destroyed if mankind is ever to live in peace.
Ultimately, though, it is hatred and greed rather than bullets and rifles that fuel the flames of war. Covetousness, or greediness, is a fundamental cause of war, and hatred frequently leads to violence. To uproot these destructive feelings, people need to change the way they think. They need to be educated in the ways of peace. Thus, the ancient prophet Isaiah realistically states that war will cease only when people ‘do not learn war anymore.’—Isaiah 2:4.
However, at present we live in a world that teaches adults and children, not the value of peace, but the glory of war. Sadly, even children are being trained to kill.
They Learned to Kill
At the age of 14, Alhaji became a decommissioned soldier. He was only ten years old when rebel troops captured him and trained him to fight with an AK-47 assault rifle. As a forced recruit, he went on food raids and burned down houses. He also killed and mutilated people. Today, Alhaji finds it difficult to forget war and to adjust to civilian life. Abraham, another child soldier, also learned to kill and was reluctant to turn over his weapon. He said: “If they tell me to go away without my gun, I don’t know what I will do, how I will eat.”
More than 300,000 child soldiers—both boys and girls—are still fighting and dying in the endless civil conflicts that plague our planet. Explained one rebel leader: “They obey orders; they are not concerned about getting back to their wife or family; and they don’t know fear.” Yet, these children want and deserve a better life.
In developed countries, the appalling situation of the child soldier may seem a world away. Even so, many Western children are learning to wage war in the comfort of their homes. In what way?
Take José from southeastern Spain as an example. He was a teenager who enjoyed practicing martial arts. His prize possession was a samurai sword that his father had bought him for Christmas. And he loved video games, especially violent ones. On April 1, 2000, he emulated in real life the aggression of his screen hero. In an orgy of violence, he killed his father, his mother, and his sister with the very sword his father had given him. “I wanted to be alone in the world; I didn’t want my parents looking for me,” he explained to the police.
Commenting on the effects of violent entertainment, author and military officer Dave Grossman noted: “We are reaching that stage of desensitization at which the inflicting of pain and suffering has become a source of entertainment: vicarious pleasure rather than revulsion. We are learning to kill, and we are learning to like it.”
Both Alhaji and José learned to kill. Neither set out to be killers, but training of one sort or another warped their thinking. Such training—whether for children or for adults—sows the seeds of violence and war.
Learning Peace Instead of War
Lasting peace can never be established while people are learning to kill. Many centuries ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “If only you would actually pay attention to [God’s] commandments! Then your peace would become just like a river.” (Isaiah 48:17, 18) When people acquire accurate knowledge about God’s Word and learn to love God’s law, violence and war become repulsive to them. Even now, parents can make sure that the games their children play do not encourage violence. Adults can also learn to overcome hatred and greed. Jehovah’s Witnesses have discovered time and again that God’s Word has the power to change personalities.—Hebrews 4:12.
Consider the example of Hortêncio. He was a young man when he against his will was recruited to become a soldier. Military training was designed to “inculcate in us the desire to kill other people and not to have any fear of killing,” he explains. He fought in a drawn-out civil war in Africa. “The war affected my personality,” he admits. “Even today I still remember everything I did. I feel very bad about what I was forced to do.”
When a fellow soldier spoke to Hortêncio about the Bible, it touched his heart. God’s promise at Psalm 46:9 to bring an end to all forms of war impressed him. The more he studied the Bible, the less he wanted to fight. Before long, he and two of his companions were expelled from the army, and they dedicated their lives to Jehovah God. “Bible truth helped me to have love for my enemy,” Hortêncio explains. “I saw that by fighting in the war, I was actually sinning against Jehovah, for God says that we should not kill our neighbor. To show this love, I had to change my way of thinking and not view people as my enemies.”
Such true-life experiences illustrate that Bible education indeed promotes peace. This is not surprising. The prophet Isaiah stated that there is a direct relationship between divine education and peace. He foretold: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” (Isaiah 54:13) The same prophet foresaw a time when people of all nations would stream to the pure worship of Jehovah God to learn of his ways. With what result? “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:2-4.
In harmony with that prophecy, Jehovah’s Witnesses are engaged in a worldwide educational work that has already helped millions to overcome the hatred that is at the root of man’s wars.
A Guarantee for World Peace
Apart from providing education, God has established a government, or “kingdom,” capable of ensuring worldwide peace. Significantly, the Bible describes God’s chosen Ruler, Jesus Christ, as the “Prince of Peace.” It further assures us that “to the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.”—Isaiah 9:6, 7.
What guarantee do we have that Christ’s rule will successfully eliminate every kind of war? The prophet Isaiah adds: “The very zeal of Jehovah of armies will do this.” (Isaiah 9:7) God has the will and the means to preserve lasting peace. Jesus has every confidence in this promise. That is why he taught his followers to pray for God’s Kingdom to come and for God’s will to be done on earth. (Matthew 6:9, 10) When that sincere request is finally answered, war will never again blight the surface of the earth.
For an examination of the evidence that we are living in the last days, see chapter 11 of the book Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
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Bible education promotes true peace