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2015

Ypres (BE)

It is estimated that about 17 million people, both military and civilians alike, died in the First World War (1914-1918), making it one of the deadliest conflicts in human history.

With the Belgian town of Ypres standing in the path of the German army's advance into France, it became the centre of terrible drawn-out battles that saw the use of poison gas, employed for the first time in history on 22 April 1915. Thankfully these barbaric weapons are now banned under the 'Geneva Protocol', a treaty prohibiting the use of chemical and biological weapons in international armed conflicts that was signed in Geneva on 17 June 1925. A more comprehensive ban treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention, entered into force in 1997. The 2013 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Ypres was one of the sites that hosted an unofficial Christmas Truce in 1914 between German and British soldiers. Indeed, peaceful and sometimes friendly interactions between opposing forces were a regular occurrence in front-line sectors of the Western Front. In some areas, it manifested simply as passive inactivity, where both sides would refrain from overtly aggressive or threatening behaviour, while in other cases it extended to regular conversations or even visits from one trench to another.

Today people of all nationalities, including both British/Commonwealth and Germans, visit Ypres to remember what happened and to listen to the Last Post at the Menin Gate. With this first presentation of 'Making Peace' in Belgium we hope that people will also realize and appreciate the many important contributions made by peace-makers over the last 100 years, in the hope that future generations may never have to experience the brutality of war.