100 Years of Remembrance
On 11th November 100 years ago, the land, sea and air fighting of the First World War ended. It took longer to reach a peace agreement: the Treaty of Versailles was not signed until the following year. The Allies had won a victory in the conflict, but that victory had entailed the deaths of millions of people, both military and civilian, great trauma for many of the survivors, parts of Europe becoming a wasteland and many countries including our own struggling with debt after expensive campaigns. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars: as we know that proved untrue. Less than 21 full years later World War Two was launched.
Today it is estimated that 1 in 6 children are living in conflict zones. Where violence is the background to daily life, other problems are abundant too: struggles for shelter, safety, food, healthcare, education and income are all part of the reality of life for millions today. Conflict is not the only source of poverty, but it is a major contributor in many places today.
We may not be directly affected, but I don’t believe we can remain unconcerned. As we remember those who died in the First World War at this anniversary time, mourn their passing and recall the devastation wrought across Europe, we need to pledge ourselves again to peace.
The European project is not perfect, but to have enabled people who were killing each other a hundred years ago to live side-by-side in peace is a remarkable achievement. Whatever our views on Brexit, this must surely remain an important aim for all Europeans today.
Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” That is as true in November 2018 as in the first century. Where are the peacemakers of the 21st century?
We can all be peacemakers. Some are known worldwide for standing up to injustice. People such as Malala Yousafzai, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Desmond Tutu, many of them (though by no means all) motivated by their Christian faith.
If every human-being dedicated themselves to harmony and reconciliation, our world would be a much more secure and happier place. People would no longer die in conflict or suffer injury or mental trauma because of war. Many others would have the security they need to enable them to have a sustainable future. Our effect may be limited on the world stage initially, but small movements grow and can change the world as has been proved many times before – think the abolition of slavery, the end of apartheid in South Africa,
Many of us pray for peace, and that is right and good, but how can we justify that, if we are not also willing to make a mark on our small spheres of influence by promoting peace in and among our families, friends, colleagues, schools, communities, churches, clubs, workplaces and homes? We might be surprised at what we can achieve when we work together to change the world.
As we remember the horrors of past wars, let us look to the future with hope, and pledge ourselves to make it a better one.
With best wishes Sarah