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Humility for Peace.

Saturday 14th October 2023.

Peace – and maintaining peace – requires active seeds. Those who oppress a people for decades, taking away the soil to live on, stealing the resources necessary for survival, even cutting off its water supply, mustn’t be surprised if and when the moment arrives where things come to a head. Investing in hate and violence turns into a twisted spiral. At some point a threshold is crossed where patience or hope for better times cease to exist. Active seeds growing hate are when one human being takes away the chance of development from another person, and tramples on their creed: for instance on the freedom of religion. This is where violence becomes a means to an end. Those who don’t keep asking themselves how violence is created, where it comes from and why it is applied, cannot yet know peace.

Active seeds of peace start for instance with converting a desert into fertile land, also with constructive investments in the health system and common good. Planting trees that guarantee a quality of life, that provide shade, nourishment, improved soils. A solid school education is another part of this. You do something for the other person because you want to support the other, to enable them to walk on their own. This is often easier said than done, but somebody has to start doing it. As a matter of course, this kind of life is based on renouncing violence. Friendship and the common good are the only goals, rather than revenge.

It’s been nearly 53 years now that Willy Brandt went down on his knees at the Warsaw Ghetto, keeping half a minute of motionless silence there, honouring the victims of the Nazi regime.

On 7 December 1970 he knelt down in front of the monument in the former Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, dedicated to the heroes of the Warsaw ghetto uprising in April 1943. Brandt going down on his knees represented an admission of German guilt – for the crimes against humanity of the Holocaust and the war of annihilation against Poland. The German chancellor took a bow to commemorate Polish suffering and the courage of the Jewish men and women living in the ghetto who, in 1943 dared to rise up against the German occupiers. These days, this gesture of humility keeps providing us with inspiration.


War is no alternative. Which is why we need to get back to peace. What would happen if the weapons were to fall silent tomorrow? What if the kidnapped victims were exchanged? What if a hand was extended to the enemy, and a forest planted as a token of trust, a forest that both sides would water and look after jointly, across the frontier? Bombing houses is a simple action of revenge; firing rockets as stupid as it is unimaginative for they only fly off somewhere in order to explode and destroy. This is the year of 2023 – have we really not come further than 1939? Have we not developed as humans? Everything inside me strains against calling the war a just war. The only just cause is peace. Everything inside me strains to support one side and to damn the other, even though of course one side started the war. But what led it to do this? As I say, it’s high time to not keep repeating the old errors, in the case of us journalists, stop writing the same things. It’s high time for Peace on Earth (something I can’t write about often enough) and someone has to make a start. I would like to make the case for silencing the weapons, without conditions attached, and for us to start thinking about how relations between ourselves, us humans, can carry on in peace. The remaining time can then be used for something different …


Uwe Heitkamp (62)

trained TV journalist, book author and hobby botanist, father of two grown-up children, knows Portugal for 30 years, founder of ECO123. Translations: Dina Adão, John Elliot, Ruth Correia, Patrícia Lara, Kathleen Becker

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