As a host of events in the media have noted, 2014-2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War. Following an initial request from Bishop John , and with the continuing support of Bishop Ralph, the Justice and Peace Commission for Hallam Diocese has prepared material to help us reflect on the bloody conflict 100 years ago and on the ongoing cries for peace amidst the wars and tensions that still span the world today.
The commemoration is built around four "movements", which bring together recalling the past, thinking about it more widely and in a Christian context, examining our own consciences regarding the call to be peacemakers, and finally prayer and practical opportunities for working for peace and justice.
Resources for individual and group use will be added to these sections tabs over the coming months.
The photograph shows war graves at Tyne Cot cemetery (near Ypres), which is one of the graveyards regularly visited by pupils from Hallam diocese.
11, 956 Commonwealth servicemen are buried or commemorated here.
Only 3,587 are identified.
First of all, we remember.
We remember all those who died, not only in muddy trenches but in warships and merchantmen at sea, in fragile aircraft and balloons, in deserts and mountains and on rocky beaches, in civilian towns and in field hospitals. Those who died in the heat of battle, and those who died from wounds and illness. We remember the dead and suffering of all sides, combatants and civilians.
We remember too the power struggles and distrust that led Europe into war, and the history which followed after the peace of 1918, eventually dragging Europe back into a war that speared across the globe in 1939-45. We remember the cry of "never again" , the work for peace and the building of a new Europe where old enemies became friends and partners.
We remember with neither nationalist pride, nor with nihilist despair, but with Christian hope. Hope in he who says "I am the Resurrection and the Life". Hope also in the Kingdom proclaimed by the Prince of Peace.
The photograph shows Pope Benedict XV (1914-1922).
"A good starting point is the most neglected pope of the twentieth century, Benedict XV. His resolute opposition to the war made him a lone voice among world leaders, who largely ignored him; he was also an embarrassment to local bishops determined to be patriotic. He is neglected now because European Catholics found his message unsettling and he remains today a disturbing figure for many...". Fr. Ashley Beck, lecturer at St Mary's Twickenham, writing in Pax Christi "Justpeace" No 297 Nov-Dec 2013.
We think we know the story of World War One - the soldiers, the trenches, the guns, the broken earth and shattered towns, the memorials, the Last Post...
But are there other stories, less prominent in the familiar narrative which also need to be heard?
- The stories of non-combatants -the medics, and those who suffered at home.
- The stories of conscientious objectors, including Catholics.
- The stories of Commonwealth and Irish soldiers who also fought.
- The stories of a Pope striving for peace
How do these stories fit with the story of out faith, of the death and resurrection of the Prince of Peace?
The photograph shows St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) , founder of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) and author of the "Spiritual Exercises".
He was a soldier who turned to God after being wounded. When he decided to commit himself fully to Christ, he symbolically laid down his weapons at the altar....
Ignatius went on to teach a way of listening to God called the Spiritual Exercises. An important part of his approach, practised by many Christians today, is an careful reflection know as the "examen". This is used to reflect over your day, in the faith that there are moments of grace and opportunity to be found there.
A way of using this to think about our own involvement in war and peace in included in the resources below. These issues touch on all sorts of areas in our lives - in films and stories , military industries and armed forces, global politics and local fears, in how we read the past and in how we plan for the future.
There is no easy blueprint to solve this complex manifestation of the "fallen-ness" of the world, no simple list of rights and wrongs to learn. However, this exercise invites us to not close our eyes to our part in the roots and repercussions of conflict today. And to be attentive to living the gospel of peace in our real world, in our everyday lives.
"In Flanders Fields the poppies blow / Between the crosses, row on row" In Flanders Fields, John McRae, 1915.
The symbol of Pax Christi Flanders is the peace dove with two open hands. Children ask us: “Why does the peace dove have hands instead of wings?” Our answer is: “Only with open hands can peace be reached and peace built up. Give peace a hand,” is an invitation to us all. (Pax Christi Flanders )
Throughout the Church and indeed with "all people of good will", there are signs of hope, and opportunities to work and pray for a better world, to co-operate in God's Kingdom of Peace. As well national and international resources listed below, there are opportunities to get involved with Justice and Peace issues at parish and diocesan levels here in Hallam.
Resolve doesn't mean we can solve all the problems
Resolve means that as Christians we will hold firm to the "supreme spiritual duty laid upon us by Christ" and "omit nothing, as far as is in our power lies, to contribute to hasten the end of this calamity by trying to bring the peoples and their leaders to more moderate resolutions in the discussion of means that will secure a 'just and lasting peace'”. (Pope Benedict XV, "Peace Note", 1917)
This thought-provoking film invites us in its own way to Remember, Reflect, Repent and Resolve...