Stale-mates and ceasefires

Geri's Game (1997)Thought for the Day this morning was about the difference between ceasing fire and making peace. As usual, you can listen again here at 1:21:21 or you can read the words below.

There’s a short film called Geri’s Game which tells the story of an elderly man playing chess against himself in a park. The first version of Geri outsmarts the second by faking a heart attack, spinning the board round, and playing his opponent’s move, thereby winning a set of dentures from himself. It’s silly, but it’s clever in its portrayal of how conflict is associated with competition, and deviousness. And the metaphor of the stalemate is clear – Geri only wins because the other Geri loses.

On Saturday, the UN security council unanimously voted for a 30-day ceasefire in the besieged eastern Ghouta district of Damascus. But the planned safe passage of humanitarian aid and medical supplies did not occur, as within hours it was apparent that no ceasefire was going to happen. Meanwhile, news that North Korea has offered to begin peace talks with its southern neighbour has been greeted with cynicism by some who suggest that the North is simply trying to drive a wedge between South Korea and the USA. The Korean peninsula has been living in an uneasy state of ceasefire since 1953.

Ceasing fire is not making peace. Too often, ceasing fire is simply taking a break before resuming conflict, or worse still, provoking the opposing side to expose its weakness in order to exploit it.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”.

To make peace requires enemies to set aside their desire to win, in order to be reconciled. Seeking peace means seeking justice, but also showing mercy. Developing the characteristics of God, loving those who will not obviously love us back.

Pope Francis has described a mediator as “one who retains nothing for himself but rather spends himself generously until he is consumed, knowing that the only gain is peace.”

And that very gain reflects the heart of the God of love reminding us that, in global conflict as in personal relationships, it takes courage and determination to spend yourself generously in order to gain peace.