Vol 1 No. 17 Remembrance Day

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War. What follows is a blunt, and in some places disturbing reflection of that event.

Each year the number of veterans for the Second World War become fewer and fewer. The stories become harder to retrieve. Our dependence on memory becomes more frayed as those who have vivid, first hand recollections recoil from the burden of trying to convince another generation that war brings destruction to men, women, children, communities and nations. Yet war in our world continues. The threat of war remains intact after two and a half centuries with the European powers (along with the cooperation of North America for much of that) bringing suffering and death to 10’s of millions of people (mostly their own citizens).

As a country we are extremely ambivalent about our warring history. Despite our history of conflict we prefer to see ourselves as observers and non-combatants in a mad world. We occasionally allow for our recollection of our stellar contributions towards post WWII stability and peace keeping for five decades.

I am personally challenged by this Remembrance Day in my role as a Civilian Chaplain for the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada (the home of “Smokey” Smith, Canada’s last Victoria Cross holder who died this last summer). In my role as Padre I will be screening/interviewing eight young infantrymen for service in Afghanistan. They carry with them great risk to their personal safety. If past experience is any measure, not one of them volunteers because they see the opportunity as a lark or an adventure. I am constantly moved by their sense of commitment to a peaceful world and their pride in representing Canada. They are our proxy in a challenging violent and dangerous world. If each of them pass scrutiny I will commit to keep in touch with their families and pray for them regularly over the next year.

I ask this Sunday that all of us remember some of the following things:

∙ Remember the horror of war or all who are affected by it; those who lost their lives, the injured, combatants, non-combatants, civilians

∙ Please pray for peace

∙ May we feel called to a renewed ministry of reconciliation 2 Corinthians 5: 18,19.

∙ Give thanks for those who “gave their todays so that we might have our tomorrows”

∙ Pledge with those who have gone before to remember their sacrifice and convey that sacrifice to this generation.

∙ Mark a full minute of silence in the service this Sunday.

∙ Have someone share their personal experience of war, fleeing violence, or war (as a soldier or civilian).

∙ Remember the many sides of “war memories”.

 

I know of a woman who, as a six year old little girl from Germany, remembers V-E Day as the day the Russians took her civilian dad and shot him in the village square. I know a woman whose widowed cousin, in fear of the approaching Soviet army, murdered all but one of his eight children and then killed himself. I remember a friend of our family in the 1960’s in Edmonton who died a lingering, desperately painful death from being gassed in WWI. Memories are mixed, memories are different.

The apostle Paul could honour the vocation of the soldier. Peter would see the centurion Cornelius become a Christian. Jesus would declare to us that the peace makers are blessed, yet He Himself defeated death by both His sacrifice (very passive, if you like, allowing His own death) and the power of His resurrection; which was anything but peaceful or passive.

Finally please pray for our chaplains and the re-discovery of three things; Our gratefulness to God for our freedom and a personal and passionate commitment to peace. May we commit like the children of Israel, who repeatedly re-called their history (as a reminder of God’s faithfulness  ). For in re-calling history we have a greater opportunity not to repeat it.

 

Warmly,

In Christ,

Jeremy Bell

 

 

 

 

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