One hundred years ago this month Europe set itself aflame with what history knows as World War I.
Its conduct, outcomes and consequences still have an adverse impact today, especially in the tinder-box boundaries and broken relationships of the Middle East.
In some way, though not as explicitly as perhaps now, The Great War of 1914-1918 also reignited long-restrained religious animosities. After that war, the victors, principally the United Kingdom and France, partitioned that part of the world to what they thought was their long-term advantage, but subsequent events prove to the contrary.
The Middle East is the most volatile and dangerous place on the planet today, largely because of the forces and feuds World War I unleashed.
The nations and “states” found there today are locked in ethnic and religious struggles from Iran to Israel and as far west as Libya. All is within the historic shadow of the extinct Ottoman Empire.
Historians have written countless volumes on the Ottoman defeat and how that poses perhaps the greatest threat of a broader war.
People, rising from many tribes and ethnicities, live on top of one another, and in a reasonable world should be good neighbors. But that is not the case.
Oil and the founding of modern Israel added fuel to all the extant flames.
Almost everyone seems to shoot before attempting meaningful conversation.
In a better world, writer Henri Nouwen’s wise words should become the currency of interchanges:
“To become neighbors is to bridge the gap between people. As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look in each other’s eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise. We give them names, make jokes about them, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact. … We forget that they are our brothers and sisters and treat them as objects that can be destroyed at will.
“Only when we have the courage to cross the street and look in one another’s eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family.”
The problem is that too many people find that unbelievable.