A celebration of peace and today we also think about World Soil Day – Jan Garood

Peace for the Earth

My reflection has three sections, which I hope come together in the end. I will tell you when I’m changing topic, to avoid confusion: War and peace, Some thoughts about soil and A word about John the Baptist.

The messianic writings of Baruch around 200 BCE and Isaiah around 740 BCE are both looking towards a time of peace for Jerusalem. Both write of “every valley shall be lifted up and every mountain and hill made low.” That is we will have an easy path. The people are looking to a time of peace.

After the horrors of World War II, there was an appetite to work for peace. Leaders and diplomats gathered in Geneva to develop four treaties that established rules to protect civilians, prisoners of war, refugees, hospitals and civic structures and the earth itself from devastation.   They’re now collectively known as the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

The absolute number of war deaths has been declining since 1946. In some years in the early post-war era, around half a million people died through direct violence in wars; in contrast, in 2016 the number of all battle-related deaths in conflicts involving at least one state was 87,432.[1]

90% of victims of war are woman and children this is a huge change from a century ago when 90% were soldiers.[2]

The world spent $2 trillion on its military in 2020; the global average of military share of GDP is 2.4%. [3]

Military spending diverts resources away from solving humanity’s problems of famine, sanitation, medicine and environmental problems and away from sustainable development. International tensions stoked by high levels of military spending also reduce opportunities for international cooperation on global environmental threats or pandemics. Also, security policies and militarism lead to ensuring military access to, and control of, natural resources like oil, gas, water and metals.

The human cost of war is immense. The damage to the young who train to be our warriors will be revealed through the current enquiry into how the culture of the armed services contributes to such a high suicide rate among veterans. We are very aware of examples of rogue units ~ it is an unnatural culture. War is barbaric, militarism can be soul destroying, leaving veterans unable to cope in the unstructured life after service. The human toll of war is tragic – on all sides.   Who will ever forget the harrowing scenes this year of Afghani citizens storming planes, holding onto the wing as the plane takes of – the desperation of that!

And the land, the soil that feeds the people becomes a toxic wasteland.   One of the most dramatic ways humans can affect soil properties is through the performance of military activities. The impacts of pollutants, toxins or worse: nerve agents, radioactive agents or landmines scars the land for decades. Surely our world leaders are clever enough to see that in a Climate Emergency, war must be banned. Greed avarice and religious differences must be put on hold, to save the planet.

It should be a war crime to engage acts of war!

Some thoughts about soil

A single handful of healthy soil contains considerably more life than the human population of planet earth. There can be anything up to 50 billion bacteria and as many as 100 million fungal cells. There are microscopic nematodes, thin, worm-shaped animals that eat anything from bacteria to insects. Then there are arthropods, ranging from the visible ones such as centipedes, to the microscopic mites. Soil isn’t just a convenient home for these flora and fauna. It is they that keep the soil healthy and in doing so ensure it is good to grow. Earthworms consume the equivalent of a third of their body weight in soil each day, as they feed on the bacteria that live in it. The tunnels they make improve aeration, and the castes of fine soil they produce as waste make nutrients more accessible to plants. Micro-fungi, consisting primarily of microscopic, threadlike hyphae, extend through the soil forming complex symbiotic relationships with plants. [4]

Creation is awesome!

Healthy soil must be replenished, protected from infernos of bush fire and flood which washes away the silt and topsoil. It must be fed with mulch and compost. Healthy soil smells clean; one spadeful should reveal a colony of worms breaking down the mulch.

Now a word on John the Baptist

I watched a series about Greta Thunburg recently. My heart ached for that courageous young woman, wearing baggy old track suit pants to address the UN – she does not buy new clothes; she embodies her beliefs. Her commitment and her integrity are inspiring. She can explain clearly what needs to be done and her logical mind is frustrated with the politician’s lack lustre response – with all the Blah blah blah.

We so need our Gretas and many other passionate young people to shout from the wilderness. To warn us all to prepare the way – although I know many of us have been shouting from the wilderness ourselves for 40 or 50 years now.

On Q&A this week I was delighted to meet Narelda Jacobs, another voice in the wilderness to listen out for.   She is 46, beautiful, articulate and the daughter of a Uniting Church minister who is an indigenous man. Her mother is/was Irish.  She is the first Aboriginal, and first openly lesbian newsreader in Western Australia. On Q&A she said that there are indigenous leaders in every industry and every sector. She said:“We are moving from intergenerational trauma into intergenerational power.”.

I would like to finish by quoting Pastor Dawn, a progressive Lutheran minister from Ontario.

Paster Dawn:

“This second Sunday in Advent churches all over the earth hear the cries of the prophet John the Baptist to prepare the way of our God, I don’t want us to simply hear the cries from the wilderness as a call to repent. Yes we need to turn around. Yes repentance is called for.      But this Advent, when the wilderness itself is crying, I want us to do more than heed the cries of the wild, annoying prophet, I want us to become the prophet. In response to the cries of our suffering planet, this Advent, like no other, is the time for us to become John the Baptists. We need to be annoying. We need to shout, to scream, to tear at the very heart of our neighbours, our families our friends and we need to cry repent.  Turn around! We might even have to say, “the end is near!!!”

Prepare the way for our God. Become the prophet!!! Be the voice crying not just from the wilderness, but on behalf of the wilderness! Be as annoying as you need to be. Shout as loudly as you are able. Repent! I say, Repent!!!! For God’s sake, repent!”[5]

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/war-and-peace


[3]  Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).https://www.sipri.org/media/press-release/2021/world-military-spending-rises-almost-2-trillion-2020

[4] https://www.ft.com/content/2833fdee-2dbe-11e8-97ec-4bd3494d5f14

[5] https://pastordawn.com/category/sermons/

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