Faith Mat­ters

Solihull News - - FAITH MATTERS - By Stephen Lin­stead, St Alphege Church

AS we ap­proach the hun­dredth an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War, the thoughts of many will turn to fam­ily in­volve­ment in that con­flict.

My fa­ther was too young to fight in 1914 and too old to see com­bat in 1939.

How­ever, his cousin fought in France and, while still a teenager, was killed in 1916. We have vis­ited his grave at Ber­nafay near Amiens, a tran­quil and beau­ti­fully kept ceme­tery, which con­trasts poignantly with the vi­o­lence that took place in its vicin­ity for four ter­ri­ble years.

We also vis­ited the site at Com­piègne not far away where the war was brought to an end.

Com­piègne gives the vis­i­tor food for thought. The ar­mistice be­tween Ger­many and the vic­to­ri­ous al­lies was signed in a rail­way car­riage there just be­fore it came into ef­fect in 1918.

The French pre­served the site as a me­mo­rial to the event and as a cel­e­bra­tion of their own vic­tory.

But dur­ing the Nazi in­va­sion of France, the car­riage was re­moved to Ger­many and even­tu­ally de­stroyed.

To­day the empty tracks where it once stood and a re­con­struc­tion of the car­riage, some dis­tance from the orig­i­nal site, bear tes­ti­mony to a peace that failed.

I am old enough to re­mem­ber VE day.

It was an oc­ca­sion for bon­fires and much re­joic­ing.

There was a gen­uine hope that a new world or­der was about to be ush­ered in, which would at last guar­an­tee peace and end con­flict.

But shortly af­ter 1945, we saw the Iron Cur­tain come down and the start of the Cold War, which on oc­ca­sion nearly spilled over into open hos­til­i­ties.

The Korean War, the Viet­nam War and many oth­ers have taken a ter­ri­ble toll in terms of death and hu­man suf­fer­ing.

For a time, with the fall of the Ber­lin Wall, it seemed that hu­man­ity’s fate might at last be per­ma­nently im­prov­ing.

But that hope again seems pre­ma­ture with the resur­gence of ag­gres­sive na­tion­al­ism and the threat of a re­newed arms race.

To some, this per­pet­ual in­abil­ity of hu­man be­ings to live in peace with their neigh­bours, de­spite the aw­ful lessons of the past, gives rise to de­spair and a con­clu­sion that the hu­man race is in­evitably doomed.

But it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that hu­man his­tory has been full of bless­ings as well as mis­for­tunes.

Through­out the most threat­en­ing of times there have been peo­ple of hope and virtue shin­ing like lights in the dark­ness.

For the Chris­tian, sim­ply aban­don­ing the world to its fate is not an ac­cept­able op­tion.

Our Lord’s mes­sage ‘ Blessed are the peace­mak­ers’ re­minds us that war is a curse on hu­man­ity brought about by its own sin­ful­ness and it is God’s will that it should end.

And so we once more mark the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, a time for re­mem­ber­ing the sac­ri­fices of those who died in past con­flicts in the de­fence of free­dom.

But surely this year in par­tic­u­lar is also a time for re­solv­ing to do all in our power to pre­vent fur­ther wars and to ad­dress the causes of hu­man con­flict.

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