|We are very often told about the heroes and the glory of war. But we sometimes forget the gret glories that have come to us through peaceable men and women, and we don’t hear much about the heroes of peace. We do not want to forget the courage of the brave men who have given their health and their very lives for their countries in war. They had great courage, and we shall always remember with reverence and gratitude their great self-sacrifice. But when Armistice Day comes round each year, and we think of all the sad hearts of those who have lost their dear ones, or of the sad lives of the men who have been maimed or blinded in war, we realise that there is no glory—only sadness and horror in war. It is such a pity that this wonderful courage should have been used in war when there are so many more worthy ways in which it could be used.
“Peace hath her victories no less renowned than war”, said the poet. Peace also has her heroes. Do you remember the Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were thrown into a burning furnace? Why were they so heroic? I think it was because they knew they were fighting for the right cause, and so they won. It is an important thing to fight for what is right—not fight for the sake of fighting. If all the heroism wasted in wars could be used in fighting poverty, disease, cruelty to children or animals, crime, bullying and all the other things we have to suffer, the world would soon be a better place.
I was once living near a town called Gresford, where there was a terrible mining disaster. There had been an explosion in the mine, and many men were killed. Others were trapped by the collapsing of the passages, and throughout the mine there was great danger of falling roofs and poison gas. But numbers of men came and offered to form rescue parties to go down into the dangerous mine and try to rescue their trapped comrades. That was real heroism, and it was the heroism of peace—trying to save lives instead of destroying them.
Great heroism was shown, too, by famous Father Damien, who was a Belgian Catholic missionary in the South Seas. In 1873, he heard of the need of someone to help the lepers exiled on the lonely island of Molokai. He volunteered for the work, and though his friends tried to stop him, for he promised to have a brilliant career, he went and gave himself in attending the lepers, lightening their sufferings and helping them to happier lives in their settlement. He was not surprised when, ten years later, he himself became a leper. In 1889, at the age of 48, he died of leprosy. Could there be greater heroism than that?
A story that boys like is that of little Pierre Bozec, a French boy, ten years of age, who died in 1882. He was a very poor boy, and at the age of eight persuaded the captain of a small vessel to take him away as a ship’s boy. He was treated very cruelly by all the sailors, and had a wretched life on the ship for the whole two years she was away. Then, as they drew near the homeland, a great storm arose and drove the ship aground a quarter of a mile from land. The heavy seas beat upon her, and she was in danger of going to pieces. There were people on the shore, but they were helpless, for they could not reach the ship. If only one of the sailors could get ashore with a line! But between the ship and the rocky shore was a quarter-mile of huge, breaking waves. None of them would venture. Then little Pierre thrust himself forward and said he would go. They laughed at him, but he insisted, and they were so terrified that they let him go. With the line tied to his waist, the little fellow, who was a strong swimmer, battled with the waves, and the anxious watches saw him disappear time after time, only to reappear, still fighting his way toward the shore. Bravely he continued till he was right near the land, when the last waves picked him up and dashed his frail body on the cruel rocks. Little Pierre was killed, but the line was ashore, and all the sailors were saved. That is how Pierre Bozec repaid two years of cruelty—by giving his life for them. What a wonderful example for all boys and men was that French lad who died at the age of ten!
We could go on for pages telling stories of doctors who risk their health and their lives in fighting disease, of engineers who risk their lives building new bridges and roads for us, of explorers who go into dangerous countries to open the unknown parts of the world for our use, of fearless aviators who try out new aeroplanes and do risky work making air travel safe for us, of missionaries who venture among savage peoples to tell them of better ways of living and spread the message of Jesus Christ. Yes! There are far more heroes of peace than there are of war, but they do their heroic deeds in quiet ways, so the world doesn’t hear much about them.
Peacetime offers more chances of heroism than war. If the boys of Malaya want to be heroes, let them be heroes of peace, giving their lives to make the world a better place, and thus helping God to bring His Kingdom among men. Could there be a better task?
The Malaysia Message
Vol. 48 No. 2