Loaded rifles and white doves

A frank conversation with Jesse Dhur, journalist at the Lëtzebuerger Journal.

Article in original version.

Humans are innately territorial and hardwired for war, one might think. While building genuine peace is a multi-faceted challenge, it is not impossible. Responses require the influence, resources, and commitment of various people and institutions, at various times. Talking to different agents from civil society, Journal investigated an extended notion of peace.

“One of the key tasks for present-day peace activism – whether in the Ukrainian context or in any other conflict zone – is to now design a security and peace architecture for then”, stresses Raymond Becker, co-initiator of the NGO „Friddens- a Solidaritéitsplattform Lëtzebuerg“. Indeed, multilateralism, development cooperation, and sustainable peacebuilding have never been more important. As a matter of fact, the absolute number of war deaths has been declining globally since 1946. However, according to the United Nations, violent conflicts have hit a new high since the end of World War II, with nuclear arsenals expanding and millions of people being displaced. And while the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine may be getting the most attention at the moment, a plethora of conflicts around the world as well as endemic violence in societies ostensibly at peace deserve just as much support and compassion.

Addressing the root causes as well as the drivers of conflict and building peace are long-term and complex endeavours – for those whose lives are plagued by violence in the first place, but also for those engaging with peace research and activism. In times of global alert and ongoing shock due to the horrors of war raging again through the European continent, the task appears to be even more challenging. “After seven and half months of war in the Ukraine and with a public debate that is still dominated by fear, desperation, and rage, it is very difficult to envision the complexity of actions that are required to make peace possible again, and sustainable”, says Raymond Becker. “And yet, while conceiving solutions for tomorrow might be too early, thinking about the day after tomorrow is crucial.”

Though the 69-years-old Luxembourger advocates for long-sighted responses that are detached from war hysteria-like discussions, Russia’s attack on Ukraine earlier this year had left him nothing but shocked himself. “The period following the events at the end of February presented the greatest challenge for me as a long-time peace activist so far”, admits the Echternacher-by-choice. Raymond Becker has been involved in local politics and civil society for his entire life. Since the late 1970s, his commitment has been directed against war, rearmament, and nuclear weapons.

As for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the core question that has been preoccupying European governments and dividing peace activists for months – whether supply Ukraine with weapons –, the former Déi Gréng and LSAP-politician takes a clear stand. “Obviously, the current situation is complex, and any decision must be considered carefully. I firmly support the prominent Article 51 of the United Nations’ Charter, acknowledging Ukraine’s inherent right to armed self-defence following Russia’s attack and the member states’ right to supply lethal military assistance”, elucidates Raymond Becker. “However, I would no longer endorse the decision, if the victim state were to go beyond the intention of defending its integrity.”

Knowing that UN members’ armament supply doesn’t necessarily bring about the end of the conflict and that, fundamentally, “problems can’t be solved by war”, there is no contradiction in advocating for peace and at the same time supporting the distribution or use of weapons, according to him. A commonly held misconception in this regard, the civil society-engaged Luxembourger claims, is to equate all of the movements dedicated to the promotion of peace with in-all-cases anti-arms pacifism. “I am an agent for peace, clearly, but no pacifist. In certain contexts, I see the inevitable need for countering violence with controlled violence, and I respect the decisions and the value of international bodies addressing such high-stake security issues”, highlights Raymond Becker.

Evidently, having spent most of his professional career in the service for citizens, the Echternacher is a strong supporter of institutional and political structures that administer society. Equally, he believes in the power of civil society engagement. Integrating both realms while emphasizing the local-community level – the very core of every political process in the broad sense – is crucial for building peace, he opines. His mission in all of that: sensitizing people and movements for networking. “Peace starts with the will to listen and talk to each other. Through creating spaces and platforms where we can engage with each other, we pave the way for a future of dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect”, says the experienced peace activist.

To provide exactly such a venue that promotes the open discussion of peace-related issues, Raymond Becker co-initiated the “Friddens- a Solidaritéitsplattform Lëtzebuerg”. Currently still focussing on raising awareness on the complex nature of the Russia-Ukraine-conflict by organizing public debates and protests, he aspires to expand the NGO, synergizing its causes and activities with other agents from civil society. “Even though our efforts to establish contact with movements such as Youth For Climate Luxembourg haven’t born fruit so far, it is vital to collaborate and support each other while fighting for the same cause”, he claims. “Many people I talk to and network with happen to be elderly folks, “dinosaurs” like me. Hence, bringing the younger generations aboard and incorporating them in such processes long-term is an essential task for any activist movement.”

By Jesse Dhur, Misch Pautsch
Published on 17 Oct. 2022
Lëtzebuerger Journal