The Christmas Truce celebrated among soldiers from both sides along the Western Front at the beginning of the First World War in 1914 was in fact a series of spontaneous acts along the Front before, during and after Christmas in which men came together to sing, play and chat instead of killing one another.
French (Trêve de Noël) and British (Christmas Truce) on one side, Germans (Weihnachtsfrieden) on the other. An extraordinary and spontaneous explosion of goodwill and bonhomie among enemies, as in the week before Christmas Day through to December 26, troops from both sides entered no man's land to eat together, drink together, play football, exchange prisoners, stories, hold joint burial ceremonies, pray together, sing Christmas songs together.
The ceremonies were held to a lesser extent one year later despite the efforts of the leaders of both sides to ban fraternization with the "enemy". One hundred years on, perhaps we can remember the goodwill and good example of these young men and try to rekindle the Christmas spirit, whatever religion people follow.
One hundred years on, we have without any doubt made some huge strides forwards. Children no longer work down mines in most of the world, women have equal rights in most countries, despite the incidence of gender violence, primary school education is reaching the hundred per cent threshold, easily preventable diseases are no longer a threat to a growing number of people.
Certain countries implemented socially progressive models which shine as beacons for the future. The Soviet Union provided free and excellent maternal care, free and excellent basic, middle and secondary education, free and excellent higher education, illiteracy rates of near to zero, then a guaranteed job, a free home = free housing, free electricity, free gas, free water, fixed rate telephone charge, subsidized or free transportation, free and proficient healthcare, including dental care, free basic necessities, even free vodka. In many cases a car was provided, gasoline was free. Social mobility was guaranteed, you could walk anywhere any time of day or night, you had leisure time activities and even training in music, ballet, sports, acrobatics, you name it, provided for free, there were youth movements, the Pioneers, Komsomol and so on, there was placement to work abroad if you applied, there was security on the streets, you did not find them crawling with drug addicts, there was safety of the State, and there was an external aid program amounting to 250 billion USD per annum to help countries freed from the yoke of Imperialist tyranny.
Cuba, despite an inhumane blockade, today continues to follow the socially progressive model based upon meritocracy, and exports healthcare and education/literacy programs to dozens of countries around the world.
However, complacency and political apathy mean that the great gains made since one hundred years ago are now being chipped away. The word "crisis" saw labor rights swept off the table and precariousness is today the buzzword of the day. The way forward is to remember the goodwill of those boys who preferred to sing and play than shoot each other. Let us hope this message filters through to those who spread hatred, death and destruction in this beautiful home Mother Nature gave to us, the idea being to live together.
Let us try to do so in 2015 and let us remember this is the year of the Millennium Development Goals.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. He is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights.