November 2014

January 23, 2015

Thoughts From The Cottage

Dear Friends

In November our thoughts turn naturally to remembrance and that is even more so this year as we remember the Centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. There are few people left who remember the war now and for many of us remembrance of that war is coloured by the way history has been taught, the films and plays we have seen and the books we have read. It was the ‘First’ in so many ways. Not only was it the first World War it was the first war to use motorised transport, tanks and airplanes to name a few. It was also the first British war to have conscription and hence the first to see conscientious objectors, the first war with major civilian casualties and the first with the use of modern, effective machine guns. No one knows how many people died in the war and estimates range from 9 million to 17 million. The world population in 1914 was 1.8 billion so that is between 5% & 9.5%. Soldiers were more likely to die or be seriously wounded than return home fit and well.

Here at the Beacon last May the Drama Group’s production of ‘The Accrington Pals’ gave us a glimpse into the horrors of war and it’s effect on those left behind. It had a profound effect upon many in the audience and in the cast, leading some to research and investigate more. I am sure that over the next four years there will be many opportunities for such glimpses. At Barnes Close we are going to look at ‘Private Peaceful’ this month and in Rubery this December we hope to have an event remembering The Christmas Truce of 1914.

However if we remembering by only focussing on the past, it is an incomplete remembering. It becomes like a quick look through old holiday snaps or a family conversation about long departed relatives at a funeral. The purpose of our remembering is not to glorify war or even to plumb the depths of the horrors of war. It is not simply to honour the heroes or remember the fallen. Remembering the suffering of the innocent, the women and children left behind is not enough. Real remembering should lead us into the conviction that this must never happen again. It should lead us to ask questions about the ethics of war, how we protect those at risk, how we order the world, how we solve differences, how we use the earth’s resources.

The Christian Church has been divided over its attitude to war for a long time. The Quakers, Brethren and Mennonites are amongst those who have said that all war is wrong and whose members have become conscientious objectors. The majority of churches have said that killing is wrong but that going to war as a last resort in order to protect others is acceptable. We need to take seriously the commandment that is usually translated ‘You shall not murder’ but maybe more literally correct to translate as ‘You shall not kill’ and the words of Jesus to ‘turn the other cheek’. None of us want our children or grandchildren to die as a result of war or terrorism therefore our remembrance must include a commitment to work and pray for peace and to re-write the world order to remove injustice.