Today I realised a scary fact; that although we live in the most peaceful century in human history, in the last 7 years the world is getting progressively less peaceful.
Unfortunately, this is no trick, it’s no April fool.
In fact, Foreign Policy Magazine puts it into a stark reality;
‘For 20 years after the end of the Cold War, deadly conflict was in decline. Fewer wars were killing fewer people the world over. Five years ago, however, that positive trend went into reverse, and each year since has seen more conflict, more victims, and more people displaced. 2016 is unlikely to bring an improvement from the woes of 2015: It is war — not peace — that has momentum.’
This is something that can’t be ignored, especially by Christians committed to making the world more peaceful.
So here are just 10 Facts about the state of conflict in our world today that you may not already realise;
1. It was reported in the 2014 Global Peace Index that only 11 countries in the world were not involved in conflict that year
2. In the 2015 Global Peace Index the UK ranked at only 39 in the index of most peaceful countries and the USA, 94, out of 162 countries
3. The economic cost of violence in 2014 was estimated at $14.3 trillion or 13.4% of global GDP (Global Peace Index)
4. The amount of deaths from terrorism has increased by 61% in the last decade. However, the reality is that 82% of these death occurred in just five countries; Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria (Global Peace Index)
5. In the worlds most discussed conflict, Syria, 11.5% of the Syrian population have been killed or injured since the violence started in March 2011
6. There are fast developing conflicts that get very little attention, such as those in Chad, South Sudan, Burundi and in the South China Sea (if you want more information visit Foreign Policy Magazine)
7. There are an estimated 250,000 child soldiers in the world today and it is estimated that 40% of all child soldiers are girls (War Child )
8. The latest UNHCR report estimates that more than 50 million people are now either refugees or internally displaced. This is the highest number since the end of the Second World War (Global Peace Index)
9. The most militarised country in the world today is Israel (Global Peace Index )
10. Together nine countries possess more than 15,000 nuclear warheads. The destructive power of the UK Trident capability alone is more than 1000 times greater than the bomb that hit Hiroshima at the end of Second World War
So where do we stand?
Following the recent attack on Brussels, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his Easter address, encouraged us not to give into fear;
‘Fear is reasonable, a normal human reaction. This week has shocked all of us, and risks causing us to act fearfully, to see a world in which fear triumphs. Easter proclaims to us in flesh and blood that fear and death and terror are not the last words. God has spoken life, hope and purpose.’
Yet, when preparing for a sermon on Peace and the Church last year I sent a survey to 48 of my non-church going friends to discover their views on the relationship between Christianity and Peace and the results were troubling.
I asked them ‘Do you believe Christianity is more often than not a peace-making religion?
51% of them said either ‘No’ or I ‘Don’t Know’.
And perhaps more disturbing, when asked; ‘Do you think the Church of England helps promote peace in the UK today?
67% said ‘No’ or ‘I don’t know’.
I have no doubt that the Archbishop is right in what he said, and that Jesus’ message of Peace has a profound challenge to the horrors that we are seeing in today’s world. Yet this message is only as powerful as the extent to which we choose to live by it. I believe we have become complacent with our relative peace, and as such, struggle to be committed to challenging this reality in the way we should be.
If we want to challenge the momentum of violence and war, where we choose to stand on issues of peace and conflict matters deeply. It is not good enough for those outside of the Church to have any doubts on what we believe about Peace.
So what can we do?
Join an organisation lobbying for peace so you can help challenge these norms. For those within the Anglican Communion you may appreciate our Facebook page or would like to become a member by visiting our website.
You can also find out about Christian organisations working towards peace by checking out the Christian Peace Network, a collection of organisations spanning all denominations and none.
Finally, encourage your Church to talk about issues of violence and peace regularly. Recognise Peace Sunday as well as Remembrance Sunday. Encourage peace education in our children’s schools and ensure that the Christian message of peace is no longer side-lined within our own Church communities.