A Christmas Message for 1923, December 25, 1923



6 rue du Vieux-Collége

A Christmas Message For 1923

by Jane Addams (recently returned from a journey around the world)

The desire for Peace and Good Will perpetually renewed in the hearts of men on Christmas Day is, in this year of our Lord 1923, shadowed by a compunction and by a curious sense of futility.

We know the world is not at peace nor is there enough active good will in it to accomplish the healing of the nations. Conscious that we have all failed in a new reach of human understanding, in moral energy adequate to repair the ravages of a world war, in a fellowship warm enough to melt down national animosities, we stand shamefaced in the midst of the Christmas rejoicing.

In the hope that this uneasiness may be but the beginnings of remorse, but the stirrings of that self-abasement which inevitably precedes a great spiritual awakening, the following Christmas message recalls the words of Him whose birthday we celebrate. [page 2]

In Africa, in India, in the Philippines, good men striving to establish accepted standards of government among alien populations are disconcerted and alarmed by a rising tide of self-determination, by an assertion of the popular will against their control. May these men, honestly convinced that the time has not yet come to renounce their stewardship, remember His severity towards the self-righteous, and at least on Christmas Day recall His solemn warning "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones."

And may the millions "being prepared for citizenship" renew their resolution to continue the policies of a great teacher who more than any other living man is steadfastly committed to the typical Christian adventure as yet untried of "non-resistance." May at least one nation of oriental peoples actually fulfill that essential doctrine preached by Him who ↑was↓ born Christmas Day on Eastern soil. [page 3]

The divided nations of Europe in a panic of apprehension lest old enemies seek revenge, lest sudden social changes [destroy] established governments are constantly gripped by the fear of unemployment, of revolution, of bankruptcy, of starvation.

Baffled and frightened statesmen stand helpless amid a ruined social fabric and see no way out. It is as He had never uttered the words "Love alone can cast out fear," or as if He had never given a basic command to His followers "Be just and fear not."

As these statesmen celebrate Christmas Day may they be convinced that only Love and longing for Justice can remove distrust and desire for revenge, can repair the confidence and good will essential to the comity of nations, can recover economic security and moral stability to peoples so recently fostered into habits of hatred and suspicion and at last restore Peace to a continent distracted by long continued warfare. [page 4]

The United States of America caught in a traditional distrust and dislike of "foreign entanglements," abandons the solemn covenants made in her name, restricts her immigration, increases her tariffs, and refuses to consider her war loans as part of an international responsibility. Although producing beyond her own needs and increasing her national shipping, she has failed to bring together American plethora of wheat and European dearth of bread: she has yet found no way of restoring the purchasing power of Europe to the end that multitudes of idle and disheartened men may be employed and millions of starving women and children may be fed.

As Christmas is celebrated across her prosperous continent may her statesmen remember that He once said "Lend, hoping for nothing again and your reward shall be great." May the Christmas season "↑stab↓ broad awake" this nation peopled by Europeans and their children, lest adopting a policy of national isolation she [someday] recalls in bitter regret the condemnation of "Whosoliveth to himself." [page 5]

Those nations in the Orient which have so recently entered into world relationships that they could not escape a share in the great war, have unhappily acquired a new consciousness of the part military preparedness may play in the attainment of national ambitions.

May China and Japan with their age-long admiration for sound ethics and their veneration for the teachings of the sage and of the saint profit by the advice given to one who drew his sword in quick defense against a military threat; "Put up thy sword into his place for all they that draw the sword shall perish by the sword."

May they realize that that nation is already perishing by the sword when military authority dominates civil life, when the talk of foreign interference is substituted for discussion of internal reforms, when the fear of [warlike] neighbors is deliberately utilized to postpone the day of disarmament.