Lincoln made a Thanksgiving plea for peace. Let’s now envision a world without war or hunger.
On Thanksgiving, as you enjoy time with family and great food, be an advocate for peace and unity for all.
When President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the National Thanksgiving Day holiday in 1863, he had peace on his mind. The United States was in the midst of The Civil War.
Lincoln called for a Thanksgiving prayer to end the war: “to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Peace abroad was important to Lincoln as well, shown by his stating in the Thanksgiving proclamation that “peace has been preserved with all nations.” While the North and South fought the Civil War, there was also the danger of the U.S. going to war with Great Britain again. The U.S. almost withdrew from an agreement with Britain that disarmed warships on the Great Lakes. Fortunately the historic Rush-Bagot agreement, which has symbolized the peaceful border with Canada, was saved.
Thanksgiving is thus a holiday about peace, and our role as Americans in spreading tranquility at home and abroad. On this Thanksgiving, prayers and actions must turn to Ukraine. The horror of war continues as Ukraine has been plunged into darkness in some areas, from Russian missile attacks on civilians and infrastructure.
On this Thanksgiving, we appeal for peace between Russia and Ukraine and an end to the tragic loss of life. Russia must withdraw its troops from Ukraine and build a peace with its neighbor. Continued warfare will not achieve security for anyone.
We must continue to support Ukraine and encourage Russia to choose the path of peace. Ukraine and Russia could develop historic peace and disarmament treaties that stand the test of time. And Russia and the U.S. also need to negotiate a treaty reducing nuclear weapons, bringing arsenals down into the hundreds instead of the current thousands.
Our Thanksgiving plea for peace extends to all nations, including Yemen. There is a civil war in Yemen that is claiming thousands of lives, including children, and has led to millions of people suffering in extreme hunger. There desperately needs to be a truce renewed between the Saudi Arabia-led coalition backing the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels.
Children in Yemen were recently interviewed by the charity Save the Children. Yemeni kids told the charity that “since the six-month UN-led truce ended this October, they constantly fear for their lives when they are playing outside or walking to school, and safety is their most pressing concern.”
We have to encourage the Saudi coalition and Houthis to renew the truce and get a final peace treaty.
Thanksgiving is also about helping war victims. As Lincoln said at Thanksgiving, we should pray and care for “those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.”
Millions of civilians are suffering from conflicts around the globe right now. We must do everything we can to help and protect them from harm. Peace is imperative in all conflicts everywhere, to protect the human rights of all.
The most basic human right is being able to eat and survive. As President Dwight Eisenhower reminded us, it “is fitting and appropriate at this time of national thanksgiving that we should remember and respond to the needs of those of other lands.”
Eisenhower said, “I urge my fellow Americans to support and assist the efforts which we as a Nation, working individually and in cooperation with other nations, are directing toward the solution of the world-food problem.”
You can write a letter on Thanksgiving to Congress advocating for global food aid including Eisenhower’s Food for Peace program. It was letter writing, after all, by Sarah Josepha Hale, that encouraged Lincoln to proclaim Thanksgiving Day.
On Thanksgiving, as you enjoy time with family and great food, be an advocate for peace and unity for all. Envision a World Thanksgiving Day where there is no war and no hunger.
William Lambers is the author of “The Road to Peace” and partnered with the United Nations World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.”
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