Cork Methodist hosted another successful November Fayre on Saturday. As always we wish to thank each person involved, each stall, and all who attended – participation across the board ensured a wonderful time of fellowship and fun.
During that morning, I snuck off briefly to attend a Remembrance Day event in Peace Park on South Mall. A bitter wind blew as the Rev Christie Fitzgerald, Rev Ted Ardis and I led the gathered crowd in readings and prayers of remembrance.
Wreaths circled the memorial, placed solemnly by representatives from each Allied nation - each wreath representing unbelievable loss of life. Our attention was drawn, rightly, to broader conflict. I did not know till then that Peace Park is also home to a less obtrusive memorial to the lives lost in the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By that rock, a young woman laid a solitary rose. The horrific irony of the continued loss of life after the war to end all wars doesn't escape us.
At the Remembrance Day event, a representative of the Western Front Association read a portion of Sebastian Faulks' novel Birdsong. (If you have not read Birdsong I highly recommend it). The main character, Stephen, records this thought in his diary:
"I do not know what I have done to live in this existence. I do not know what any of us did to tilt the world into this unnatural orbit. We came here only for a few months. No child or future generation will ever know what this was like. They will never understand. When it is over we will go quietly among the living and we will not tell them. We will talk and sleep and go about our business like human beings. We will seal what we have seen in the silence of our hearts and no words will reach us."
Though my generation views the two world wars as a historical event, even we know the stories handed on from great-grandparents to grandparents to parents. Stories about how the war affected those men and women who did return. How many either refused or could not speak about what had unfolded before their eyes. The trauma is not limited to these wars, of course. The conflicts continue to simmer; new hatred is born daily.
On Remembrance Day, my mind always wonders to conflicts globally that, for reasons too various to discuss in this brief blog, somehow escaped significant coverage. In the mid-90s, in my part of the world, a nation was massacred. The Rwandan genocide claimed more than 800 000 lives, most lost in hand-to-hand combat, where the brutality of the act could not be dampened by distance and anonymity. It unfolded in under 100 days.
Just last night, I watched a Sky News reporter move his way through an Isis internment camp. As it is with these camps, it started as temporary accommodation but has morphed into something more permanent. What do you do with tens of thousands of captured 'enemies' - mostly women and children - indoctrinated into Caliphate ideology? One young boy, staring at the reporter with cold, dead eyes, prophesied that the Islamic State would slaughter the enemy. He is just a boy.
Remembrance Day is in part there to motivate us to double-down on our commitment to ways of peace. As sophisticated as we are, many of our new technologies are exploited to sow seeds of anarchy and violence. In our current climate antagonistic forces weaponize words, and aggressions and micro-aggressions abound. The exploitation of life continues.
Isaiah offers this prophecy: swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4). Though a prophecy, we should accept this as an instruction. Not long before the Rwandan genocide took place, a census indicated that more than 90% of the population self-identified as Christian (those figures hold to this day). Nothing can be taken for granted. We are called to be peacemakers, and the instruction is as pressing now as it has ever been.