Today the world celebrates the centenary of the end of WWI. During the past four years of studies, celebrations and commemorations, a parallel was often drawn between our time and the years preceding the outburst of that war.
Indeed, the nationalist and populist wave we are witnessing shows sinister similarities. The most striking and worrying one is the rise of nationalist movements and the downfall of multilateral diplomacy and its international organisations. In Europe and in America nationalists tend to use whatever item may be found in each of our countries real or invented “tradition” and stereotypes, beginning with the autochthonous traditional religion, as tools of exclusion, as fuel for renewed nationalist ideas, for futile but dangerous quarrels among European countries. This undermines decades of efforts for integration and peaceful cooperation, especially among Europeans.
Nationalism is war. Once aroused, it may very easily get out of control, as it was the case one century ago.
On the other hand, in many of our countries voices have been raised during these years of celebrations to preserve the memory and lessons of history, asking national parliaments and governments to make some symbolic gesture in reparation for the huge and insane slaughter in which that war resulted. In particular demands were raised to ask individual national states to symbolically repeal the death sentences – including decimations of military units – inflicted upon those soldiers who refused to continue to take part in that senseless and bloody conflict.
But as long as those debates remain limited to a single nation, the focus becomes the historical interpretation of the role of that particular country, and the dispute on the historical responsibilities for the outbreak of the war.
The European Humanist Federation believes it is high time for a collective European gesture of reparation by the European institutions and by all the European countries whose citizens were forced to fight in WWI.
We ask the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and all the Parliaments and governments of the then belligerent European nations to repeal all the death sentences inflicted upon the drafted soldiers who refused to take part in that massacre. As a sign of reparation, as an assumption of historical responsibility, as a symbolic gesture of awareness of what is at stake for the future of Europe today.