World Affairs

The Battle Of The Somme

I’ve just come back from a few days away in the Autumn school break. We have been visiting the First World War Battlefields on the Somme.

Those who served in WW1 are remembered in cemeteries all over Northern France, and in museums and sites in the area.

At Beaumont Hamel, soldiers from Newfoundland are remembered in a preserved site that aims to show something of what it was like in the trenches.

There’s a book in which visitors can record their own feelings. Many of those who have written in the book have come to pay their respects to ancestors who fought in the world wars.

Many of the entries are along the lines of ‘Thank you – you gave your lives so that we could have freedom’

I don’t want to take away from the spirit of service that was shown by so many of our service men and women, I just wanted to write in the book ‘What a waste’

There seemed to be a widespread desire that we learn from the two world wars, but we still pursue what we perceive to be honourable ends by violent means.

faith · Political

Confronting Evil By Peaceful Means

We live in a world where it seems that violence can be justified, as along as we can persuade ourselves that it is in the cause of right. We take this ‘truth’ in almost with our mother’s milk as we are fed a diet of cartoons, and then, as we grow older, films, that seem to say – ‘As long as you are a goody, it’s OK to kill the baddies’. I can remember from my childhood the westerns that almost always portrayed cowboys as the goodies and indians as the baddies. More recently we have a multitude of action films starring people like Bruce Willis that promote this view that we can stamp out evil by force.

If we are not careful, we imagine that you can divide the world up into good people and bad people. (we ourselves of course, are always on the side of right!) Today, for example, many people in the West suspect all Arabs of being bad. Imagine that you are in the secret service, and an Arab suspected of being a terrorist, and with possible links to terrorist organisations, is brought in for questioning. There has been a rumour going round that the next terrorist attack will be targetted on a school somewhere in the UK. How far would you go with this suspect, bearing in mind that he denies being a terrorist ? Would you torture him to see if he knows anything ? (Only today, as I write, George Bush has admitted that the CIA has set up prisons outside the US where tactics of ‘co-ercive interrogation’ are used in the fight against terrorism)

The Russian writer Solzhenitsyn wrote – “If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

When we attempt to stamp out evil using violent methods, we will always find oursevles compromised, and even the fruit of victory will end up tasting bitter.

So what should we do ? Do we let evil go unchallenged and unchecked. Of course not. The nation of Iraq needed to depose Saddam. But the methods chosen were wrong. The US and Uk governments were presented by a group of Christian activists with a detailed plan of oppostion to Saddam, but they did not pursue it, and chose the option of armed intervention instead.

In the Gospels we see the Christian way. Jesus confronts evil directly, but he deals with it through his suffering and resurrection, and not by force. Even God with all his power cannot stamp out evil if it means going gainst God’s nature to do it. We have some shining examples of the way of Christ in the last 100 years, notably Mahatma Ghandi, himself a Hindu.

May we be creative and determined in our opposition to all that is evil in our world, and be strengthened to follow the way of Christ.