Michael Bates in TiranaA two-hour history lesson from a Prime Minister isn’t an ordinary lunch appointment for me, but then very little about the Walk for Truce campaign has been “ordinary”. Sali Beresha, Prime Minister of Albania since 2005, has more authority than most to talk about the history of national and international upheaval. As the first democratically elected President of Albania, leading from 1992 to 1997, he was not only midwife to the birth of the Republic of Albania, but witnessed up close the horrifying conflict in the Balkans. So our discussion of the question of how to manage significant disputes within and between nations, but without resorting to violence, was far from academic.

Although, highly relevant to today, given the events in the Middle East, this is far from a new question. Indeed, nearly three thousand years ago, a “politician” of his day, King Iphitos asked, “How can we bring a pause in the endless cycle of war and violence that has so plagued this land?” It was this simple question that led to the founding of the ancient Olympic Games – the Sacred Truce, which accompanied the ancient Games, was an agreement among warring nations to allow men to travel to the games, compete, and return home in peace; it also explains why a member of the British House of Lords is walking from ancient Olympia to London in time for the 2012 Games – and why we were now having lunch with the Albanian Prime Minister.

First a little history; the Sacred Truce was almost unbroken for 1100 years (barring one or two violations by, unsurprisingly, the Spartans), but it became a symbolic truce as the Games were resurrected in 1896. However, following five mass boycotts, three cancelations due to world war, two terrorists attacks, and violations of the truce on almost every occasion, it’s more of a shambolic truce.

Since 1993 an effort has been made to take the Olympic Truce seriously by making it a Resolution of the United Nations General Assembly. As such, it requires all signatories to the Truce to “pursue initiatives for peace and reconciliation in the spirit of the Ancient Games.”  Each Games, summer or winter, a fresh Resolution is proposed to the General Assembly of the United Nations and it is enthusiastically signed by all 192 member states, but sadly there is no record of any member state ever taking any initiative to implement it. 

Lord Michael Bates wants to see that changed and believes, that if enough of us agree, we can hold our governments to account and see the truce made a reality for the first time in nearly two thousand years. This year, it is the British Government that will propose the UN Resolution so, “Why not take the Resolution and make it a reality?” is Michael’s challenge. Having done all that he felt that he could within the political landscape of Westminster, he has taken his message on the road. His colleagues have called his efforts “courageous” which is shorthand for “political suicide”. Although, having now met with the Greek Prime Minister, the Albanian President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, this effort of truly Homeric proportions, may not be such a crazy idea after all.

However, Michael would be the first to admit that governments are not the answer, “As Christians, we serve the Prince of Peace, and so we cannot avoid this issue; we should all be involved in peace making.” Like YWAM, the Walk for Truce is a grassroots movement and so it should come as no surprise that YWAMers have been active in this movement from the very start. However, with three thousand miles still to go on the walk, this movement is just getting started.

There are many ways that YWAMers can continue to be involved: spreading news of the walk through our networks, writing to our governments to ask them how they will implement the UN Resolution they will sign, initiating our own campaigns for truce, or even putting on our walking boots to join Michael to walk for a few days – you never know who you might have lunch with along the way.

For information and to sign the petition, go to www.walkfortruce.org