In reviewing 2023, though, what I am left thinking about most is peace. I am going to blame a current pervasive ear worm in the form of Greg Lake’s I believe in Father Christmas. It is one of those songs that we hear but perhaps don’t necessarily listen to. The lyrics clearly challenge some of the understandings of Christmas, not least the expected appearance of snow. The original (cringingly 70s) music video ends with imagery of war to drive home the line ‘they said there’ll be peace on Earth’. The war in Vietnam ended the year in which the song was released, and this is reflected in the video’s final closing scene of a returning soldier. Nevertheless, the song highlights, among other things, that peace is not season dependent and war is oblivious to dates in the calendar.
Christmas is not a universal celebration (indeed less than half of the global population mark it). There are other religious and secular festivals, events and holidays which promote peace and goodwill towards others throughout the year. As war and conflict are equally disregarding of those dates as they are of Christmas, I wonder if any season can effectively bring about peace.
I am particularly despairing of the ongoing devastation taking place in Gaza and Israel, especially after the glimmer of hope during the recent short ceasefire. I repeat what I said to open our conference last month. However powerless we feel about these events, there are things that we can and are doing. Within our communities we can support children and young people who are affected by what they are seeing on the news. We can support those who are directly impacted, who have families in the Middle East or who have lost loved ones. We can produce guidance and advice to families and schools on how to support one another and our children. And we can be there for our colleagues, providing safe spaces for conversation and reflection. And in time, we can use our psychology to promote healing.
We can also use our political muscle. As a human being I want an immediate, permanent ceasefire from both sides, the release of all hostages, and for aid to reach people in need, wherever they are. I think I can say that we all believe that there is no justification for killing innocent children anywhere in the world, and right now we think particularly of the children in Israel and Gaza. In holding that belief, we can also take steps to put pressure on our politicians to think similarly and to perhaps feel persuaded by the season to seek peace on Earth.
In my conference speech I quoted John Lennon’s Imagine which is a song and sentiment that I have held dear for most of my life. However, for this blog, I will stick with Greg Lake, who is still (annoyingly) echoing in my mind, and say:
I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish, pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
Do something small to make a big difference.
Save the Children have set up a petition calling for the Government to take urgent action to protect children in Gaza and Israel.
The petition calls for: