Give Truce a Chance Redux

By Perry Diaz

Ceasefire in Ukraine

Ceasefire in Ukraine

(I wrote this article on December 23, 2005 to commemorate the 91st  anniversary of the “Christmas Truce” during World War I in 1914.  One hundred years later after the celebrated “Christmas Truce,” another truce — or ceasefire — took effect in East Ukraine where Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists were fighting for dominance of a huge chunk of Ukrainian territory that borders Russia.  Although the ceasefire is holding there are intermittent violations that could break the ceasefire and shooting starts again.  But this time, the specter of a nuclear war is real.  It could really be the war to end all wars… including ending life on Earth.)

Give Truce a Chance

By Perry Diaz
December 23, 2005

Christmas Truce 1914, as seen by the Illustrated London News.In 1914, ninety-one years ago, during the Great War — or World War I as we call it today — the British and French armies were manning the 27-mile Western Front fiercely defending French territory from the advancing German Army. Across the British and French trenches, as near as 200 feet away, the Germans were dug in. What separated the opposing armies was a place called “No Man’s Land.”

On Christmas Eve, one of the most incredible — and unusual — events in human history took place: the Germans started placing candles on trees on “No Man’s Land.” Lit with candles, the “Christmas” trees looked awesome. The Germans began singing Christmas songs and the British and French troops responded by singing too. Soon the entire “No Man’s Land” turned into a symphonic Christmas celebration. The Germans proposed a “Christmas Truce” and the French and British troops accepted.

The memorable event was detailed in a book, titled “Silent Night,” written by Stanley Weintraub. “Signboards arose up and down the trenches in a variety of shapes. They were usually in English, or — from the Germans — in fractured English. ‘YOU NO FIGHT, WE NO FIGHT’ was the most frequently employed German message. Some British units impoverished ‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ banners and waited for a response. More placards on both sides popped up.”

Christmas-Truce-1914.3“By Christmas morning, ‘No Man’s Land’ was filled with fraternizing soldiers, sharing rations and gifts, singing and more solemnly burying their dead. Soon they were even playing soccer, mostly with impoverished balls.” According to one account, “proper burials took place as soldiers from both sides mourned together and paid their respect.”

When the generals heard about the “Christmas Truce,” they were aghast and ordered their soldiers to start shooting at each other. The soldiers resumed shooting but most of them — for several days — aimed their rifles at the sky and the stars. In some sectors, the truce continued until New Year’s Day. After all, how can “friends” shoot at each other?

What was ironic was that earlier in the autumn of 1914, Pope Benedict XV called for an official truce between the warring governments. The Papal plea was ignored. After the “Christmas Truce,” the embarrassed British commanders vowed that a truce should not happen again. However, in 1916, an “Easter Truce” happened on the Eastern Front.

On November 21, 2005, Alfred Anderson, aged 109, the last veteran of that “Christmas Truce,” died at his home in Angus, Scotland. Anderson was 18 years old on December 25, 1914, when British, French, and German troops climbed out of their trenches along the dreaded Western Front and walked across the blood-soaked “No Man’s Land” to shake hands. Anderson decorated with France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur, never forgot that moment in his life when he celebrated Christmas with his enemies on “No Man’s Land.” Indeed, it was a singular moment in history that has yet to be repeated.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, we reflect on conflicting situations around the world where “truce” — or peace — is needed. But most importantly, we need a truce in the Philippine war fronts with the communist insurgents, Muslim separatists, and even with the political oppositionists.

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) has had a “traditional Christmas truce” with the government since the insurgency began 36 years ago. This year, the military leaders are against a truce with the NPA. However, it should not preclude the NPA from declaring a unilateral truce, to which, I am sure, the military would respect.

Since July 2003, a bilateral truce between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), brokered by Malaysia, took effect when they started their peace talks. Meanwhile, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), headed by Nur Misuari, who is currently in jail charged with rebellion, is again on the warpath after a truce with the government broke down. The military accused the MNLF of aiding the Abu Sayyaf terrorists. Recently, fierce fighting erupted between government forces and the MNLF guerillas. A couple of weeks ago, the MILF through its spokesman, Eid Kabalu, offered to broker a truce between the government and the MNLF.

On the political front, things are getting worse with persistent rumors of coup plots against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Recently, 80-year old retired general Fortunato Abat proclaimed himself “president” of a “revolutionary transition government” and demanded that President Arroyo step down. He claimed that he has the support of an organization with 10,000 members. Last December 16, 2005, Gen. Abat, two of his “Cabinet” members, and a lawyer were arrested and charged with inciting to sedition for establishing their own “government.”

Although “peace” may be improbable, if not impossible, to achieve in the near future, Christmas is a day in our lives — Christians and non-Christians, theists and atheists alike — where we can have “peace” in our hearts. It is a day of serenity, harmony, and respite from the constant turmoil that surrounds us. But most importantly, it is a day where we are more forgiving, more tolerant, and more understanding of others.

The “Christmas Truce” of 1914 proved that people could set aside their differences even for day. But a truce could also be lasting. The Koreans are living in a state of perpetual truce since July 1953 when the China and North Korea signed the Korean War Truce with the United Nations and South Korea. Today, a permanent peace agreement has yet to be reached. However, the truce remains in force.

If truce could bring a lasting peace in the Korean peninsula, truce could also work wonders in the Philippines. Filipinos have suffered too long. Let’s give truce a chance.


2 Responses. Have your say.

  1. THANK gOD LIKE MANY OTHERS IN THE phl AND WORLD I have HOPE< FAITH< CHARITY. Thank you for sharing this news article again. 12-25-14

  2. Balmero D.Minero says:

    GOD on the first Christmas declared a Truce and offered reconciliation to sinful man and live as friends forever by the ultimate sacrifice of His Only Begotten Son Jesus Christ.

    He called the Illegals, the Immorals, the Criminals & the Terminals

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