Around Christmastime in 1914, along the Western Front of World War 1, soldiers of the British, French and German armies – mentally and physically broken by the nonstop gunfire and countless bodies strewn about them – formed an unofficial truce and ceasefire, and rose from the trenches that divided them to talk, exchange food and souvenirs, and even to play games together. This heartfelt show of men, intent on killing each other, laying down their arms out of a longing for their humanity, created one of the most iconic moments of peace in human history – the Christmas Truce. And under those vile circumstances, in one of history’s bloodiest wars, peace reigned in a place it had no business being – a battlefield.
This newspaper is reminded of our beautiful country Jamaica, and more specifically, the crime-plagued parish of St. James. Having already surpassed the 300 mark for murders this year, it appears that the once friendly parish is now reveling in the infamous and unenviable title of the murder capital of the Caribbean, and in some spaces, the world. As we have done countless times before, we can point to a number of factors that contribute to this sorry state of affairs, be it poor leadership, corruption, or just plain incompetence. This time, however, like the men in those trenches tired from the burdens of war, we choose to point the finger to our own collective humanity.
For the young among us, it would understandably take a wild stretch of the imagination to believe that St. James’ legacy was one of peace. People were their brother’s keeper, strangers felt safe, and neighbours were kind to each other. We used to be a giving people, and whenever possible, even without having much for ourselves, we ensured those around us felt as happy as they could have, despite the hardships. Are we so far removed from those days that we cannot have just a single moment of peace this season? Can’t we, for the lives of our children and loved ones, lay down our arms, if only for the remainder of this year?
It may very well be a pipe dream to believe that we can return to the peace we once knew, but if there is a chance in this season of giving and love, we should take it. It won’t kill us to stop the killings, even temporarily. In the end, to love and to be loved remains one of life’s greatest blessings, and in this season of cheer, is there a greater gift?