In 1918 November 11th marked the day when the “war to end war” has come to a conclusion: the Armistice of Compiègne ended the fighting on the western front of World War and putting stop to the most bloodiest and dire conflict that mankind has seen till that day. The violence and bloodshed during the Great War reached such heights that it highlighted the relevance, inspired new and strengthened already existing peace movements and turned many people into pacifists or peace activists. For this anniversary with the Give Peace a Chance Initiative (GPCI) we would like to introduce some brave, exceptional and inspiring individuals whom during their life committed themselves to spread the message of peace, opposed wars, conflicts, or represented a unifying role in conflict divided societies before, during or after WWI. Some are well known, some are less, and some of them are even controversial. Nevertheless in this article the aim is to have a general introduction and understanding of pacifism and peace activism in general.
First of all we can look into the meaning of peace. Johan Galtung the founder of the discipline of peace and conflict studies differentiates between negative and positive peace. Negative peace focuses on the absence of violence. The approach is from a “negative” side, for example the goal is to suspend violence, and attain a ceasefire. Positive peace focuses on the constructive elements of peace, like reconciliation or cooperation. This approach is from a positive side, for example the goal is to reconstruct the society after a conflict. The Armistice of Compiègne can be defined as negative peace – by halting the fighting – but depending on what cause or what aim pacifists and pace activists have, it can use a positive definition, e.g. Nelson Mandela’s & Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu’s post-apartheid reconciliation efforts between the divided South-African society.
But what is peace activism and pacifism? Peace activism is a collecting term for any kind of anti-war sentiments, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycotts, peace camps, moral purchasing and pacifism. One particular group of activists are conscientious objectors, whom are refusing to take up military service or arming themselves, based on their political, religious, or worldviews. Many of them as a result faces prosecution and giving personal sacrifices to advocate for peace. Some famous conscientious objectors were Desmond Doss or Muhamad Ali. Pacifism can mean a variety of positions with one element in common: the opposition of war and violence and commitment to peace. The different between pacifists can be made based upon their approach to violence. Deontological pacifism rejects the act of killing per se, while consequentialist pacifism is the rejection of war based on a cost/benefit analysis. For pacifists the objection of violence and war itself or a particular war can be understood through the deontological example of Mahatma Gandhi who advocated the idea of ahimsa, the non-violent protests against colonialism, while for the consequentialist example could be or Albert Einstein, who opposed World War I and violence in general, but during World War II recognized the importance of defeating Hitler and the Nazis. In other typology one would make difference between three types of pacifism: absolute pacifism, when someone refuses to kill whatever the circumstances, even in self-defence (e.g. Martin Luther King Jr.); conditional pacifism, when someone who generally opposes war, but may accept there are times when it is necessary, for example, when you’re country is invaded and you are defending your family and country (e.g. Bertrand Russel); and selective pacifism, when someone who will decide whether a war is morally justified or not, e.g. they may refuse to fight for their country if they feel that their country is engaging in an unjust war (e.g. Rosa Luxemburg). In short pacifism is diverse, but shares a common denominator: the opposition of war and violence.
 J. Galtung, Peace by Peaceful Means : Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (London Sage Publications 1996).
How can someone achieve peace? When should someone fight for peace? Is violence acceptable in the name of peace? Why do people sacrifice so much in trying to achieve it? All these questions might be understood, answered and might even create more questions through the stories that the Give Peace a Chance Initiative (GPCI) brings. The stories of men and women from Europe and beyond who fought, sacrificed, advocated for and most importantly believed in giving peace a chance.
12.11 – Aurora Piergiacomi – The International Congress of Women
13.11 – Boris Garcia – Lech Walesa
14.11 – Cristina Català – Dolores Ibárruri
15.11 – Emma Sheeran – William Butler Yeats
16.11 – Erik Immonen – Yrjo Kallinen
17.11 – Esraa Osama – Toyohiko Kagawa
18.11 – Hannah Hoehn – Sophie Scholl
19.11 – Hugo Decis – Jean Jaurès
20.11 – Jonas Fritz – Willy Brandt
21.11 – Laura McKenna
22.11 – Patrik Bole & Eva Amalija Orešković – Josip Broz Tito
23.11 – Pavlos Zoubouloglou
24.11 – Sebastian Stölting – Clara Zetkin