Let’s Stand with Peace, and Shame on Peace Deniers

Speeches of Dr. Yurii Sheliazhenko at the International Summit for Peace in Ukraine

A speech on the plenary “Civil Society Movement and Peace Voices against the War from Russia and Ukraine”

Dear friends, greetings from Kyiv. And what a honor and pleasure to share the stage in the capital of neutrality, Vienna, with genuinely pro-peace feminists like Karyna Radchenko, brave nonviolent resisters to Putin’s war machine like Oleg Bodrov, true peacebuilders, peace scholars and peace activists we heard and will hear today, – not those so-called protesters against the war who in fact support the war, as Oleg noted. He said truth; here is a place where Ukrainian and Russian peace-loving people could come together and say truth, and truth unites us.

It is a relief to participate in this International Summit for Peace in Ukraine and join my voice to many voices of sanity, for ceasefire and peace talks, for peace by peaceful means, after many sleepless nights in shelters during Russian bombings and after painful reading of news feeds turned into ammunition belts by propagandists of war.

Important that it is people’s summit, not a summit of governments. I assure you if only tomorrow by some miracle all people in the world will gather in Vienna and everywhere else to denounce all wars, to demand disarmament, disbandment of armies and abolition of militarized state borders, all governments in the world, both authoritarian and “democratic” by self-description, will unite to ban such assembly threatening their so-called “national security”, or in plain words illusion of absolute power through violence.

Free people, decent civilians, never want war; only war profiteers and their pocket governments want war and poison popular opinion with all sorts of lies, tricking people to believe that peace, which people want and have a right for, is possible only after obscene mass killing – because this is what the war is by its nature: nothing more than mass killing.

Peace denial by wealthy and powerful warmongers and their clients in politics, media, academia and civil society shows that war is a choice, not inevitability. Only the choice can explain inventiveness in expression of animosity and lack of imagination for building bridges. And they literally, intentionally blow the bridges!

Even destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam and flood of biblical scale didn’t convinced presidents Putin and Zelensky to stop the war and cooperate in saving the victims. Apparently, military struggle for power and blame game matter for them more than human lives. When their armies continue to attack each other inevitably killing and terrorizing civilians, both commanders-in-chief remain supreme peace deniers, seek for victory on battlefield, and refuse to consider any possibilities for reconciliation. Shame on peace deniers!

Because of this madness, we see horrible photos of blown and sank housing, burned buses, corpses and blood in cities on both sides of the frontline. Hundred of thousands killed, millions displaced. War of attrition for many years, they say. How stubborn and how cruel are the war planners to contemplate this endless sacrifice of lives and hopes for the sake of their unlimited power and profits?!

Some people say it is “immoral” to stop arming Ukraine for self-defense, as if nonviolent self-protection and diplomacy for someone’s whim is ruled out, like Putin shamefully ruled them out and preferred military aggression. But I believe it is immoral to fuel the war by weapons supply. The only hope to quit vicious circle of self-perpetuating violence and pain, to transform this hell on Earth into something resembling heaven or, at least, kingdom of reason, – is to learn how to resist aggressors and tyrants without violence, without copying their methods and their militarist madness.

True morality is not about killing the enemy, it is about refusing to kill, making futile violence of tyrants and militarists through civil disobedience, nonviolent resistance to militarism and war, solidarity and mutual support of civilians on all sides in resistance to war, advocacy of human rights and peacebuilding. When all people will refuse to kill, there will be no war. This is final transformation our world needs, though as a first step it is good that we demand from Putin and Zelensky to cease fire, cooperate in remedying humanitarian catastrophe, and negotiate sustainable peace based on genuine reconciliation, not stratagems and geopolitical temptations of this sadly polarized world. Saving lives and living with dignity is much more important matter than who rules the Earth, Washington or Beijing or anyone else. I certainly not wish to turn Kyiv into a capital of world empire, both Eurasianism and Atlanticism make me sick, and all I wish is that multilateral world order should be centered in all multitude of civil hearts and minds of all billions of humans.

Along with timely demands of Russian army’s withdrawal from Ukraine, withdrawal of United States’ military bases from Europe and cessation of NATO expansion, we need to demand abolition of whole system of militarized economy which kills us and robs us of our best hopes for peaceful and happy future whole last century after the first and second world wars, if not longer. And we need to start this big changes towards nonviolent governance and management from abandoning old lie popularized once by Adolf Hitler and for the profit of the merchants of death made widespread in current public discourse, the big lie that pacifists are working for the enemy side. No, we are not! Because we are turning enemies into friends; because we are voices of conscience and common sense on all sides, we are the only reason why people are still reasonable beings and not bloodlust monsters: it is result of our humble but vital peace work, the work undermined by absurd and irrational peace denial.

If you don’t like multitude of peace plans proposed by Ukrainian and Russian negotiators in Minsk and Istanbul, by Vatican, China and many countries of Global South, you are free to propose your own peace plan. You could replace peacekeepers with peacebuilders, peace journalists, educators and facilitators of reconciliatory public dialogues in Russia and Ukraine; please replace military neutrality with antimilitarist solidarity; if you like, replace referendums with other peaceful solutions to territorial disputes like arbitration or shared sovereignty or borderless world after all. But if you are not out of mind, you could not pretend that plans to wage war forever are peace plans; and you could not turn public discourse into a minefield blowing with anger with any hint on peace by peaceful means or any hint that all sides must be treated fairly and honestly, even aggressor government must not be fabulously demonized, and even the victim government must not be unfairly apologized for making its own people victims of human rights violations and war crimes inevitable when you wage any war, defensive or not, since the war is killing, war is criminal by its nature.

You cannot deny that talking is better than killing. Peace denial is dumb and shameful by its nature. My message to all peace deniers: please don’t be peace deniers, don’t humiliate yourself, use your knowledge and imagination to assert peace.

You cannot fairly deny that peaceful conflict resolution, not bloodshed, is a basic norm of international law.

You cannot deny that effective resistance to violence without violence is possible and necessary, as was proved by Mahatma Gandhi and Doctor King.

You cannot deny that dialogue, not weapons, lead to reconciliation.

You cannot deny that wars, not peace talks, are dangerous historical precedents.

You cannot deny that people dragged into meat grinder by deception and compulsion are not and could not be independent and will have blood on their hands, not independence, after the mass killing.

And you couldn’t deny that people manipulated to believe that killing is good are wrong people to be considered authority in matters of fair conflict resolution.

You cannot deny that for genuine peace you should wish not death to others, but living together with others in harmony and love, as suits decent members of the big family of humankind equal in their dignity.

In short, you cannot deny sacred value of human life. You must affirm, not deny peace. In the end, peace denial leads to insanity, shame and self-destruction, while affirmation of peace is the only hope for better future.

Let’s affirm peace.

Let’s imagine, discuss and implement peace plans.

Let’s not waste any opportunity for peaceful action and expression of borderless, unlimited solidarity between peace-loving people.

Let’s advocate ceasefire and peace talks in Ukraine now, when ceasefire and peace talks are the most needed.

Let’s stand with peace.

World Beyond War