IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

“Complaining” about peace

Erasmus, the 15th/16th century Dutch humanist and Catholic theologian, was quite a prolific writer.  I have just come across some excerpts from his The Complaint of Peace, published in 1521 .  The Amazon page where you can buy the book (not endorsing, just informing) sums it up well:

“He [Erasmust] lived at the time of the Renaissance, in the late 15th to early 16th centuries, a period of profound change, and a time when every European nation managed to go to war with another European nation. This book, THE COMPLAINT OF PEACE, grew from his reaction to his warlike times. His desire for peace permeates his work. THE COMPLAINT OF PEACE presents an oration by Lady Peace, who observes with sadness how unwelcome she is in all corners of Christendom, and builds to an appeal: “I appeal to all who call themselves Christians! I urge them, as they would manifest their sincerity, and preserve their consistency, to unite with one heart and one soul, in the abolition of war, and the establishment of perpetual and universal peace.” Now, 500 years later, Peace’s words still retain their relevance.”

Here are two other moving passages, in which you can feel Erasmus’s concern about his age and his passion for his theme (remember it is Lady Peace who is speaking):

“THOUGH I certainly deserve no ill treatment from mortals, yet if the insults and repulses I receive were attended with any advantage to them, I would content myself with lamenting in silence my own unmerited indignities and man’s injustice. But since, in driving me away from them, they remove the source of all human blessings, and let in a deluge of calamities on themselves, I am more inclined to bewail their misfortune, than complain of ill usage to myself; and I am reduced to the necessity of weeping over and commiserating those whom I wished to view rather as objects of indignation than of pity.” (the opening passage]

and…

“If I am truly that peace so extolled by God and by men; if I am really the source, the nourishing mother, the preserver and the protector of all good things in which heaven and earth abound; if, without me, no prosperity can endure here below; if nothing pure or holy, nothing that is agreeable to God or to men can be established on earth without my help; if, on the other hand, war is incontestably the essential cause of all the disasters which fall upon the universe and this plague withers at a glance everything that grows; if, because of war, all that grew and ripened in the course of the ages suddenly collapses and is turned into ruins; if war tears down everything that is maintained at the cost of the most painful efforts; if it destroys things that were most firmly established; if it poisons everything that is holy and everything that is sweet; if, in short, war is abominable to the point of annihilating all virtue, all goodliness in the hearts of men, and if nothing is more deadly for them, nothing more hateful to God than war — then, in the name of this immortal God I ask: who is capable of believing without great difficulty that those who instigate it, who barely possess the light of reason, whom one sees exerting themselves with such stubbornness, such fervor, such cunning, and at the cost of such effort and danger, to drive me away and pay so much for the overwhelming anxieties and the evils that result from war — who can believe that such persons are still truly men?”[note:  this is one sentence!]

Erasmus was, of course, a man of his times, and his primary concern was the bellicose behavior of Christian kings toward one another.  However, I think one can fairly extend the scope of his argument to all of humanity today; and that the basic lament of “Lady Peace” would, in many respects, be the same.

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December 20, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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