Story: Power to Destroy and Heal


Story: more than written or spoken words strung together, they have a life of their own to inspire, touch our heart, move us with great happiness or fear, teach us, bring us to arms.

Walking for the past few days through villages and towns of the Somme has been emotionally draining. With each step we walked through history visiting Great War grave sites honouring the fallen soldiers. With each step as I looked over the fields I could only imagine the horror of those who had witnessed war on what now seemed a peaceful land.

A gentle cold breeze and bird song belied the immense suffering and tragedy that took place on this earth. With each step I asked ‘why?’. Why had humans commited such great atrocity? Why have we not learned? Why do we continue to commit the sins of our fathers and those before them?

The Power of Story

I came to the conclusion that story had a lot to answer for the attrocities committed by humans. My simplistic interpretation of the cause of World War I was the rise of nationalism coupled with strategic alliances formed between countries. Governments created national pride through the creation of stories and celebration of national heroes. The powder keg moment was the assassination of Franz Ferdinand which set off a domino effect where promised national alliances were activated.

WW1 propaganda poster.This is a US version of an earlier British poster with the same image. Dated ca 1917. Wikipedia Commons.


Propaganda: information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.

To win the war both sides created stories painting both sides in a dark light. We no longer saw human beings, more subhuman monsters. War posters from the Allied side depicted Germans as fierce and vicious monsters. Continual bombardment of civilians with lies stirred up national pride to defend King and Country, to defend our women and children from these evil beasts.

Christmas Truce

The Illustrated London News’s illustration of the Christmas Truce: “British and German Soldiers Arm-in-Arm Exchanging Headgear: A Christmas Truce between Opposing Trenches” Wikipedia Commons

Christmas Truce

One of the most memorable images in my mind of World War 1 was the fraternisation that happened between French, German, and British soldiers in the week leading up to the 25th December 1914. There were unofficial truces along the Western Front where soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to play football with one another, mingle, exchange food and souvenirs, conduct joint burials and prisoner swaps, with several meetings ending in carol-singing. .[1]

Even in war humanity prevailed. Men saw beyond stories to fraternise, to see each other as fellow brothers of humanity.

Enemies in war, united in death. German soldiers at the Commonwealth war grave of Sunken Road Cemetery, given the same honour and respect.

United In Death

As we paid respect to the dead at the numerous war graves melancholy and sadness at certain moments were tinged with hope. Amongst a war grave to Commonwealth soldiers were German soldiers.

They may have been captured in war and bought to field hospitals, these German soldiers were given the same treatment as Allied soldiers and respect in death.

Seeing these graves of ‘enemy’ soldiers brought home that in death all perceived differences, all stories disappear.

World War 1 Commonwealth war graves at Sunken Road Cemetery.


Stories are powerful. They can engage, inspire, galvanise, capture our imagination, move us, mobilise us to fight. They can be incredibly positive but can also manipulate.

Change the Narrative

“Peace may sound simple – one beautiful word – but it requires everything we have, every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal.” Yehudi Menuhin

It is time to change the narrative. I had a chat as I was walking with Tim. He talked about Yehudi Menuhin, a classical violinist and peace activist. He spoke about the need to put all our energy in creating and sustaining peace.

We need to foster and create a new narrative of peace.

We need to with every day in our own lives find positive and inspirational stories and share them with others. We need to put pressure on our media to make create ‘news’ that brings back balance promoting love, connection, and peace. We need to find ways daily to bring joy and connection to those around us. It all starts with us. To find peace within and continually work at it.

Just Walk

The pilgrimage we are making from London to Jerusalem is about changing the record. It is about changing the story of the Palestinian conflict and suffering.

With each step and with greater awareness we aim to change the narrative, to create more balance in the media to show people ‘the other side’ of the wall, the other side of the story. To create new stories of connection, of healing, of hope, of peace.



What do you think?

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  • Tessa Wilson

    This is a wonderful blog, David. Thank you for sharing the awful experience of walking with the terrible history of World War 1. It is truly incredible we have done that twice and got close to it again many times right up to now. Your last two paragraphs inspire me as they must anyone who reads them. Thank you I say again x

    • David Cuschieri

      Thank you for your lovely words Tessa – we need to rewrite the human narrative – each and everyone of us xxx

      • Tessa Wilson

        Thanks, David May I use some of your lovely, wise words when I do my JustGiving page, shortly? They are so true and inspiring and say what I want to say but far better than I can manage. Happy walking today and God bless x

        • David Cuschieri

          Hey Tessa,
          Absolutely no problem at all – go for it!
          The more the word can get out there about Palestine the better.
          Thank you for the well wishes and look forward to seeing you on the walk!
          God bless x

  • Andrew Stimson

    ” We no longer saw human beings, more subhuman monsters.” Can’t help adding it is the same strategy Dutton uses against asylum seekers.

    • David Cuschieri

      Hi Andrew, yes Governments use propaganda for their own means. Create a story, repeat it enough and some people believe…

  • Henry

    David , truly powerful stuff . My son can concentrate on a aspecific subject for a maximum of five minutes on a good day , I have tried to explain the significance of the first world war, the plight of the palestinians and i have been unsuccesful every time. The I pad , the so called intelligent phone and the social networks provide him with small packages of information catering to his needs….Trump figured this out and won….very sad. You David, on the other hand are doing the opposite , you are walking and thus living in the present with the added plus of letting us travel with you through these beautiful photos and great insights . I truly admire you .

    • David Cuschieri

      Hi Henry,
      Yes Trump has figured this one out. Short packages of information delivered on a regular basis. Thank you for your wonderful comments. I am glad you are enjoying my insights and images – knowing that I have others who feel they traveling with me gives me support to keep going. I have missed for so long this feeling of being so in touch with the present moment and the joy it can bring. Thanks again for your words and following the blog.