May 8 is an historic day for the German and European history. It is the day the Second World War came to an end. But only in Europe. The Pacific War was still going for three more months until finally, in early September, the Japanese Instrument of Surrender was signed.
The consequences and effects of the war are well known to most people. Just remember the Jewish survivors who had no belongings anymore and needed to find a new home. Think about the rubble women who rebuilt the German cities which were destroyed by bombings. And never forget the victims of the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. All these terrible pictures have shaped my attitude towards war. I am a pacifist and May 8 is a good opportunity to look closely at this approach to life once. Because pacifism is not just a word. Rather it determines a whole life, a life which denies violence at all. As in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi:
I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
He, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King – just to name a few – are still regarded as forerunners of pacifism and as fighters for freedom and peace. Fighting, a seemingly incongruous words. But it describes how energetically they pursued their goals. Of course everything without the force of arms. Because the word was their largest and most powerful weapon. And sometimes silence, too, like Gandhi’s nonviolent resistance shows. Ultimately, weapons and violence are not able to reach one thing: to break a person’s indomitable will. Formerly, such as now, many examples can be found for this. Probably the most famous one is Nelson Mandela’s life story. He was imprisoned politically for 27 years. Nevertheless, he continued to fight against racial segregation. His activism led him to jail, but he never gave up on his believes and was finally rewarded with the highest honour for each pacifist: the Nobel Peace Prize. He had to assert himself against many adversaries and doubters.
Many pacifists know such situations when they are provoked deliberately by others. Whether it is the know-it-all neighbour, the new colleague or a stranger in a bar – aggression lurks everywhere. Many people seemingly use their fists instead of their minds. Sometimes others even call us pacifists a sissy or a dreamer. Nonpartisan like Switzerland, we seem to glide through life without intermeddling, without taking any position. But that is a fallacy. Pacifists know exactly what they want: a peaceful world without weapons, wars and violence. People cannot imagine how much energy you have to spend in order to pursue this desire, to go ahead as a role model and to face all the hatred – surrounding you day by day – with a smile on your lips.