The 11th hour of the 11th month of 1918 was the official end of World War 1, the 'war to end all wars'. If only it had. I haven't much that is original to say about this commemoration, but have read some excellent material written by others. As a remembrance round-up here is a taster to share with you:
A thoughtful broadcast talk by Dr Sam Edwards is summarised in the BBC News Magazine and asks How should we remember a war? He writes of how memorials are changing and suggests that now the last veteran of World War 1 has died the time is now right to look at that war with new eyes:
"The time is right to complicate our traditions of commemoration - not as a means to denigrate or dismiss the sacrifices asked of - and given by - British soldiers, but in order to recast the prism through which these sacrifices are refracted.
For the events of 1914-18 did not just butcher a generation on the fields of Flanders, nor did those events only become synonymous with mud and murder. World War One was also central to the enfranchisement of women, to the extension of democracy, to the origins of the welfare state, to the cleaning and rebuilding of decayed Victorian towns, to the acceptance of pacifism as a legitimate politics of protest, to improved social mobility and increased social unrest, and to the ultimate end of Empire."In We will remember them Gillan Scott reflects on how apparent peace is an illusion, that war and conflict are never far away and how
"The human condition that leads too many to abuse power and oppress and attack those who disagree with them affects us all."In his Remembrance Sunday Sermon Tony Price walks the tightrope that every preacher will recognize of balancing the different themes that ask for acknowledgement in a Remembrance Service:
"On the one hand: a 100% longing for peace, a detestation of war, a cry to God that war may cease to be known upon earth. On the other hand: a remembrance of all those who have died in war, including those who served in the armed forces, whose lives and deaths we want to honour and give thanks for.
Those who pray above all for peace, are sometimes anxious that too great an emphasis on the courage and sacrifice of those who fought, may somehow be understood as glorifying war, making the possibility of peace more remote. Those who want to remember the courage and sacrifice are afraid, that if we emphasise peace too much, we devalue the sacrifice of those who died, and somehow suggest that their deaths were in vain.
And of course we don’t want to fall off in either of those directions. We want to give full weight to both – as long as that weight is a balance, rather than one that makes us fall off."
Finally, some random thoughts from me:
I hated the Remembrance Services I had to go to as a child - outside at a War Memorial, cold, windy or wet, we sang about God providing “shelter from the stormy blast”. Shivering in my Brownie uniform, I thought God was not sheltering me very well. Later, as a Guide I vowed never again to go to Remembrance Services as all they seemed to do was glorify war. Things have changed since and so have I.
Now, I know it’s important to remember. To remember the worst people do to each other and the best people do for each other. To remember the courage and selflessness shown in war as well as the pain, fear and brutality. To remember that “the war to end all wars” did not do that. To remember that there have been few days of peace since the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. To reflect on what a mess we humans have collectively made of God’s world. To wonder how and why we have not yet learnt to live together in peace as children of one God. So yes, we should keep the silence.
But what’s the point of remembering, unless it changes us into peace-makers? Just as the roots of war begin in the heart, so the roots of peace must grow there too.
Come, Prince of Peace,
fill the hearts of all people
with all that makes for peace.
Previous Seeker posts on this theme:
Image Credit: belkin59 on Flickr, CC License