Swords into ploughshares is an important idea that comes from the Bible, particularly from the book of Isaiah. The image is that of military weapons and military technologies being converted for use towards peaceful and positive purposes. In the Bible the ploughshare symbolised a creative tool that was useful and beneficial to humankind, in contrast to the destructive tools of war as represented by the sword. This concept was expressed artistically by Evvgebly Vuchetich in his famous sculpture for the United Nations. The sculpture is called ‘Let us beat Swords into Ploughshares’ and represents the figure of a man hammering a sword into the shape of a ploughshare.
BBC Radio Journalist and Edinburgh University Professor Jolyon Mitchell has conducted an extensive exploration of this relationship between art and warfare. His study examines the way that people from different parts of the world have converted the tools of genocide and war into works of art that promote peace. These inspirational initiatives from around the world, including countries like Mozambique and Rwanda, offer a glimpse of hope and light in what can otherwise seem like an endless cycle of war and violence. Mitchell’s study points to the fulfilment of the prophesy of Isaiah which looks forward to a time when God ‘shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.’