24 Oct 2014
Westminster Abbey Institute's autumn season, Going to War, began last night (Thursday 23rd October) with the annual One People Oration given by the Rt Hon William Hague MP, First Secretary of State and Leader of the House of Commons.
In a wide-ranging lecture entitled Humanising Hell – our Restless Conscience and the Search for Peace, Mr Hague reflected on the legacy of conflict from World War One to today, and called on Britain to maintain the ideas and ambition needed to prevent future conflict and to improve the condition of humanity.
He said: 'As we mark one hundred years since the First World War, in which so many of our countrymen perished because conflict was not averted, we should be inspired to maintain our restless conscience as a nation, and be determined to do whatever we can to improve the condition of humanity. We should have faith – in the broadest sense – in our ideas and our ideals as a country, and in our ability to have a positive impact on the development of other nations and the future of our world.
'It is tempting to look back on the horrors and evils of the past, and to think that these things could not happen again. It would be comforting to imagine that we have reached such a level of education and enlightenment that ideologies like Nazism, Fascism and Communism that led to mass slaughter, and the nationalism that leads states to attack their neighbours, or groups within states to massacre their fellow-citizens, have all seen an end. Sadly, I believe this is an illusion.
'So neither as a matter of wise policy nor as a matter of conscience can Britain ever afford to turn aside from a global role. We have to continue to be restless advocates for improving the condition of humanity. This means continuing to forge new alliances, updating the UN and other global institutions, and enforcing the rules that govern international relations. But that will never be enough by itself, so we also have to retain the ambition to influence not just the resolutions that are passed and the Treaties that are signed up to, but the beliefs in the world about what is acceptable and what is not.'
The phrase 'One People' was coined by Edward Carpenter (then Archdeacon, later Dean of Westminster) in 1965-6. The orations commenced in 1966, and were intended to make people 'think not only of all Christian people but of all mankind'.
The Going to War season continues throughout the autumn with further public events exploring the moral complexities of conflict. Events for invited audiences will explore the issues with public servants, parliamentarians, faith leaders and academics.
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