What peace makes possible

In the 70 years since the end of the war in Europe, the world has faced grave challenges. But it has also built a remarkable peace.


Over the past month, I’ve been immersed in the Monitor archives from the spring of 1945. For the small price of access, you, too, can time-travel and see history as it happened. It’s pretty cool.

Seventy years ago this month, the terrible war in Europe was ending. The horror of concentration camps, of wounded soldiers and civilians, of the displaced and desperate, the size and sweep of the war’s wreckage – all that was just becoming evident.

The Monitor’s Ronald Stead, reporting from Germany, witnessed one of the last battles in Europe on May 7, 1945. American troops were on the west bank of the Elbe River, Russians on the east, and German soldiers and civilians were caught in between. It was, Mr. Stead wrote, “the abject end.... Never in my experience as a war correspondent since hostilities started have I seen such a composite presentation of both the fighting and the suffering it entails for civilians.” But awful as that was, it paled in comparison with the remains of “massacred political prisoners and slave workers I had seen in a barn in Gardelegen a few weeks before.”

From San Francisco on that same day, Roscoe Drummond reported that the “end of the war in Europe is speeding the successful beginning of the United Nations peace machinery.” It wasn’t easy to form the UN, and it has never been perfect. But there was a powerful impetus to structure the New World on consultation rather than confrontation, negotiation rather than aggression.

Two days later, Volney Hurd in Paris was ecstatic. The lights were coming back on in the City of Light: “Last night, for the first time since 1939, the French capital was its own beautiful self again,” he wrote. The flags of the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, and France flew side by side. “From the street, it looked like a rainbow of promise.”

The point of reviewing history is not nostalgia but appreciation. The price paid to build our current world was enormous. More than 60 million people were killed; cities around the planet were laid waste. But war’s end gave us, as the poet Robert Frost wrote in a different context, a “gift outright,” an opportunity brimming with potential and hope.

While there is still cruelty, suffering, and injustice – in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas – the postwar spirit is about not accepting those problems. The greatest legacy of World War II, the rainbow of promise at its end, has been humanity’s continued commitment to building a better world.

A new Monitor cover story, for instance, examines parenting (click here), one of many issues the Monitor tackles each week. Race relations, economic division, environmental concern, conflict over territory, religion, or ideas – there are thousands of problems that need solving in our world. Travel back a mere 70 years, however, and you will understand how far we have come since the lights came back on. Parents and kids can find the right balance. So can communities and nations. Peace makes everything possible

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.