By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
One hundred years ago, the world celebrated peace as a universal principle. The Armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities between Allied nations and Germany in World War I was declared on Nov. 11, 1918. The armistice took effect on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918, when all fighting on air, land and sea came to a halt at 11 a.m. Paris time.
Though the Treaty of Versailles, signed on June 28, 1919 marked the end of what was then known as “the Great War,” much of the American public still viewed Nov. 11 as the day the First World War had ended.
The following year, U.S Congress commemorated Nov. 11 as Armistice Day, a trend honored in many Allied nations as a respected day created to celebrate peace, unity and the intention to put and end to future wars.
Armistice Day came to be known as a holiday that “should be commemorated with exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding” according to the words of Congress in 1926. It was for “the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friend relations with all other peoples.”
However, then came the Second World War. Soon after, the Congress rededicated the holiday as Veterans Day to honor all American veterans. The day has been remembered as such since 1954.
This year, marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day – and Veterans for Peace, an international organization dedicated to building a culture of peace, exposing the true costs of war, and heal the wounds of war among veterans and allies, is calling everyone to stand up for peace on Nov. 11 to help “Reclaim Armistice Day”.
In celebration of Armistice Day’s centennial anniversary, the organization’s Chicago Chapter will be hosting “Imagine Armistice in Chicago” a family-friendly event on Sunday, Nov. 11 at Lutheran School of Theology, 1100 E. 55th St.
The event will feature music, spoken word, recognition of peace and justice groups, comments from key peace builders, and refreshments from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
“The purpose of the event is to allow groups and individuals working for justice and peace to network and enjoy an afternoon of unity,” said Veterans for Peace Coordinator, Arny Stieber.
Stieber, who will lead the opening words of the event, was drafted during the Vietnam War and was in the Infantry from 1970 to 71.
“The one-hundredth anniversary of Armistice Day should be a day to establish peace to be celebrated in good will with the world, and our community,” said Stieber. “There is a large misconception that all veterans support war. This is not true; as a veteran I can’t think of a better way to honor this day than by celebrating a day of peace.”
Veterans for Peace has been celebrating Armistice Day almost since the organization’s inception, with a few chapters doing yearly events. In 2008, the effort became a national effort with the passage of an official Veterans for Peace resolution. Since then, chapters across the country have been “Reclaiming Armistice Day” pushing the celebration of peace into the national conversation on Veterans Day, according to the organization.
“The message of Armistice Day was lost when Congress changed it to Veterans Day. Honoring the warrior soon turned into honoring the military and glorifying war,” said Stieber. “We think this is the wrong narrative.”
“More than ever, the world faces a critical moment. Tensions are heightened around the world and the U.S. is engaged militarily in multiple countries. Here at home we have seen increased militarization of our police forces and brutal crackdowns on dissent and people’s uprisings against state power. We must press our government to end reckless military interventions that endanger the entire world. We must build a culture of peace,” reads the organization’s statement.
“We believe that peace at home, makes for peace abroad,” said Stieber. “Violence just breeds violence and that has to come to an end.”
Veterans for Peace calls on the U.S. public to say no to more war and to demand justice and peace, at home and abroad.
The event, named after John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, is open to everyone including volunteers from the community that may like to participate, sing, dance, or perform during this celebration of peace.
“This is a day to come together with a joyous heart – we can’t do this if we can’t imagine it,” said Stieber.
To learn more about Veterans for Peace, visit: https://www.veteransforpeace.org/who-we-are/our-mission.