Yemen, where children are starving because of a civil war, desperately needs a peace treaty. Let’s pray Yemen gets a miracle like the United States and Great Britain did on Christmas Eve in 1814.
On that historic night, the U.S. and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium ending The War of 1812. Some of the greatest American diplomats helped forge the Peace of Christmas Eve including John Quincy Adams and Albert Gallatin. It would be the last time Britain and the U.S. would go to war against each other.
Historian Fred Engelman wrote that on Christmas Eve, “The Americans disappeared into the solemn night with peace in their pockets.”
The Treaty of Ghent started the process for the U.S. and Canada, then a British colony, to build a peaceful border. Both the U.S. and Canadian border areas suffered greatly from the war. Buffalo, Toronto and other cities and towns were burned to the ground. Even Washington, D.C., suffered this fate during the conflict.
While the treaty itself did not resolve issues of contention, it put a halt to the bloodshed. This opened the door for later negotiations and agreements.
One of the biggest was the disarming of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain in 1817. The Rush-Bagot agreement prevented a major arms race in areas which had been the scene of battle during the war. It also spared precious resources.
President James Monroe said of the Rush-Bagot pact, “By this arrangement useless expense on both sides and, what is of still greater importance, the danger of collision between armed vessels in those inland waters, which was great, is prevented.”
The Great Lakes region could never have developed had there been a perpetual state of fighting and arms buildup on the waters. Many other treaties would follow including the resolution of the U.S. and British dispute over the Oregon Territory.
Today, Yemen is the nation most in need of the momentum of peace. The civil war between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition against Houthi rebels has killed thousands. The U.N. World Food Program says 20 million Yemenis are suffering from hunger because of the war. Many are on the brink of starvation unless WFP and others can reach them.
There is some hope with a cease fire in the governorate of Hodeidah where the fighting has been most intense.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen country director, says “A cease fire in Hodeidah, and the reopening of Sana’a airport to domestic flights, are important first steps to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen.”
Much more needs to be done and every second is precious in order to save lives from starvation.
Kirolos warns “This is literally a matter of life and death, in a country where some 85,000 children are already believed to have died from extreme hunger and disease, from entirely preventable causes. We must use this window of opportunity to achieve a sustainable and nationwide cease fire, to get more lifesaving aid and commercial goods into and throughout the country and reach the children and families who need it most.”
The ultimate goal is a lasting peace treaty and the international community has to keep up the pressure to make this happen.
The U.S. and Britain were tired of fighting each other in 1814 and wisely forged the Peace of Christmas Eve. Yemen’s warring sides must see the futility of their conflict and put down their arms for good.
• William Lambers is the author of “The Road to Peace and Ending World Hunger.”