Peace Movement and Peacemaking

Peacemaking and pursuing peace have been at the forefront of human endeavours since time immemorial. People have been searching for ways to end conflicts and bring about lasting peace, from religious and philosophical teachings to political and diplomatic efforts. This article will delve into the history of peacemaking and peace movements, exploring some key moments and developments that have shaped the way we think about peace today.

A Brief History of Peace Movements

Historically, periods in which peace is vigorously advocated have followed eras of conflict. This appears to be partly owing to prospective enemies' sheer physical, economic, and social fatigue, as well as shattered countries' literal incapacity to marshal the emotional and financial resources required to conduct a protracted conflict. The Greek Historian Herodotus, considered the "father of history" for his excellent depiction of the Greco-Persian Wars (500-479 B.C.E.), pointed out that in space, children bury their parents; war breaks the order of nature and leads parents to\sbury their children. Insofar as such experiences are what psychologists call aversive stimuli - events like corporal punishment that reduce one's desire to repeat the immediately preceding behaviour -most people are especially likely to favour peace after they have buried their children, that is, in the immediate aftermath of war.

A crucial difference must be made between specific peace initiatives and the history of peace movements in general. Mass mobilisation peace movements as we know them now are relatively new, beginning from the early nineteenth century. However, they depend on a great reservoir of public unhappiness with conflict. They have been fed mainly by universalism, a cosmopolitan ethic that sees shared humanity and a common desire for peace underpinning and reconciling political and ethnic differences between peoples.

Ancient Civilizations and Philosophies

The quest for peace can be traced back to some of the earliest civilizations and philosophical traditions. For example, in ancient Greece, philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato emphasized the importance of peace as a cornerstone of a just society. Meanwhile, religious texts such as the Bible, the Quran, and the Tao Te Ching offer teachings on the importance of peace, love, and nonviolence. Smart Art: A timeline chart highlighting key moments and developments in the history of peacemaking and peace movements.

Political and Diplomatic Efforts

In the modern era, the pursuit of peace has been closely tied to political and diplomatic efforts. The League of Nations, established after World War I, was one of the first international organizations to promote peace and resolve conflicts. After World War II, the United Nations was established to build a more peaceful world and prevent the recurrence of global conflict

In addition to these international organizations, many countries have promoted peace through diplomacy, negotiation, and conflict resolution. For example, the Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648, ended the Thirty Years' War and marked a turning point in the history of international peace and diplomacy. The Camp David Accords, signed in 1978, represented a significant step forward in resolving the conflict between Egypt and Israel.

  • Political Efforts − Show how political efforts such as government policies, laws and regulations can impact diplomacy.

  • Diplomatic Initiatives − Illustrate how diplomatic initiatives, such as treaties and agreements, can shape political decisions.

  • Mutual Cooperation − Highlight the importance of mutual cooperation between political and diplomatic efforts in achieving common goals.

  • Interdependence − Show how political and diplomatic efforts are interdependent and how one affects the other.

  • Conflict Resolution − Explain how political and diplomatic efforts can be utilized to resolve conflicts and maintain peace.

The Peace Movement

The peace movement emerged in the 19th and 20th centuries and has played a crucial role in advocating peace and opposing war and violence. Critical moments in the history of the peace movement include the founding of the American Peace Society in 1828 and the formation of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) in 1915.

The anti-war protests of the 1960s and 1970s, particularly in response to the Vietnam War, marked a turning point for the peace movement and helped end the conflict. In more recent years, the peace movement has continued to play a vital role in promoting peace and opposing conflict and violence, from the anti-nuclear movement of the 1980s to the global protests against the Iraq War in the early 2000s.

Antiquity − Peacemaking has a long history, dating back to ancient civilizations such as Greece and Rome. In Greece, peacemaking was embodied in the figure of Hermes, the god of commerce, thieves, and diplomacy. The Romans also placed a strong emphasis on peace, with the Pax Romana (Roman Peace) serving as a symbol of the power and stability of the Roman Empire.

Religious Peace Movements

The early Christian Church was predominantly pacifist. The Roman Empire persecuted Christians throughout the first few centuries A.D. for refusing to serve in the Roman legions. Renunciation of the armaments was motivated by Jesus' teachings, particularly those delivered in the Sermon on the Mount. Furthermore, service in the Roman legions was condemned as "idolatry" in early Christian literature. Pacifism also appeared particularly suitable to many early Christians since it meant rejecting the secular world in preparation for Christ's Second Coming. Following that, there was a shift towards a state-supported perspective of the legitimacy of war and military duty.

Earlier pacifist views were considered heresy by so-called Christian realists, who believed that the Second Coming was not imminent and that Christians must therefore come to terms with the world of power and politics, the world of Cesar, as in the biblical command to render unto Cesar that which is Cesar's. Christian realists, like Augustine, the creator of the Just War theory, gave the secular realm of armed force credibility. The Roman Catholic Church took measures to minimise conflict, at least among Christians, during the Middle Ages. The "Truce of God" prohibited fighting on Sundays and other holidays. In contrast, the "Peace of God" prohibited fighting in particular holy sites while simultaneously offering exemption to certain people, such as priests and nuns.

Secular Peace Movements

Secular peace movements, as we know them now, are just about two centuries old. Throughout the nineteenth century, several organisations arose. For example, the New York and Massachusetts Peace Societies were founded in 1815 and 1816, respectively. The Quakers created the Society for Promoting Permanent and Universal Peace. Soon after, different organisations on both sides of the Atlantic were formed, notably The American Peace Society and the Universal Peace Union in 1866. Governments paid heed to these attempts, but they were primarily political afterthoughts. They had almost no actual political accomplishments other than legitimising the notion of peace and promoting optimism among those who attended.

The Hague Peace Conferences had a more significant effect on political officials and widespread expectations among many civilians. Although measurable successes have been rare, it can be argued that international peace meetings helped set the stage for such achievements with the establishment of the League of Nations after World War I and the United Nations after World War II by putting the concept of international peacemaking on the global agenda and keeping it there. They also contributed to a rising worldwide atmosphere in which war was viewed as uncivilised, and the use of resources for war grew increasingly unpopular.

The Modern Era

In the modern era, the idea of peace as a universal good gained momentum, and the peace movement emerged as a social and political force. The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of pacifism, with the Quakers being one of the earliest and most prominent peace organizations. In 1815, the Congress of Vienna established the Concert of Europe, a system of international relations that aimed to maintain peace and stability in Europe.

The 20th Century

The 20th century saw two devastating world wars and the rise of nationalism, fascism, and communism, which challenged the foundations of peace and security. In response, international organizations such as the League of Nations and the United Nations were established to promote international cooperation and prevent conflict. The peace movement also gained momentum, with organizations such as the War Resisters' International (WRI) and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) being found.

The Cold War

The Cold War lasted from the end of World War II until the early 1990s and was a period of intense rivalry and competition between the United States and the Soviet Union. Despite this, the peace movement continued to grow, with anti-nuclear weapons protests and disarmament campaigns taking place worldwide. The signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties (SALT) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) marked a significant step towards arms control and disarmament.

Contemporary Times

In recent years, the peace movement has continued to grow and evolve. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War created new opportunities for peace and cooperation and new challenges, such as ethnic conflict and terrorism. The peace movement has responded by focusing on issues such as disarmament, conflict resolution, human rights, and social justice.


The history of peacemaking and peace movements is rich and diverse, spanning thousands of years and encompassing many efforts, from religious and philosophical teachings to political and diplomatic initiatives. Despite the challenges and setbacks, pursuing peace remains one of human endeavour's most essential and enduring aspects.

Updated on: 20-Feb-2023


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