The billboards started popping up everywhere.

In cities all over the world.

In New York and Los Angeles. In Toronto, Rome and Athens.

In Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and London.

In Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The languages different, the message the same:

WAR IS OVER!

IF YOU WANT IT.

Happy Christmas from John & Yoko.

The message, of course, from John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the date December 15, 1969, a campaign devised to promote their anti-war agenda at a time when conflict raged in Vietnam.

During a subsequent interview, one reporter asked Lennon how much the billboards had cost to erect.

“I don’t know,” he replied. “But it’s cheaper than someone’s life.”

Founded on John and Yoko’s guiding principles – harmony, togetherness, love and peace – the campaign contested that, if everyone on Earth could just connect, there would be no need for wars.

It is a notion to embrace, one that still rings true today, a little over four decades on.

That the conflict in Iraq lasted so long shows that the word still needs to be spread.

That in mind, in New York City, Yoko Ono continues to fight for a peace that remains elusive.

Much has changed since 1969, but the message remains the same, no matter the language:

Lufta Mbaron!

He Kaua Pau!

Vita Ni Juu!

War is Over!

To quote Yoko Ono, ‘We say it in so many ways, but we are one’.

To use terms just a little different, we are all connected.

Back to the 1960s and, two years after unveiling their billboards, John and Yoko once again began to spread their message, this time using music, a language that all understand, a method universal.

Hearing it on the radio these days, the message behind Happy Xmas (War is Over) can get a little lost, but it is important to remember that this is more than just another Christmas song.

For that reason, we’d like to share the film made to accompany John and Yoko’s music, albeit with a warning.

The warning is this, that the following is, in parts, harrowing, the images often upsetting.

Sometimes, of course, one needs to be exposed to things distressing to underline what it is that we’re striving for: Peace. Love. Togetherness. Connection.

No-one said it would be easy, after all.

It might be tough to watch, but it’s worth it, for this film provides compelling evidence.

Evidence that, deep down, no matter our backgrounds or beliefs, we all want the same things.

To quote John Lennon, ‘Peace in our minds, peace on Earth, peace at work, peace at home, peace in the world … trying to make the next day a bit better … fighting the good fight … No violence, no frustration, no fear’.

It’s inspirational stuff and, although we might be coming at it from a different angle, there’s no question that, here in Saunderstown, we’re working towards the same goals.

Understanding. Compassion. Love and peace.

It’s about putting differences aside and working together, as John Lennon and Yoko Ono set out to do in the 1960s, as we are doing in 2011 and on into the New Year.

To use John’s words one last time, ‘I met Yoko … and we both tried to find something we had in common, a common goal in life … she couldn’t rock and roll with me and I couldn’t avant-garde with her so we decided the thing we both had in common was love, and from love came peace, and so we decided to work for world peace.’

It’s a common goal that binds us all together, one that underpins our efforts and inspires our OMs.

To use John and Yoko’s song as our inspiration, here’s to ‘the near and the dear ones … the old and the young … the weak and the strong … the rich and the poor ones … for black and for white …’

Here’s to peace.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear.

We are all connected.

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