November 2019: From the Minister’s Fireside
A power cut (fairly localised as it turned out) brought home what luxury we all enjoy. I happened to be stood next to our one and only torch when the lights went out. Of course such an event could not be in the day time when the place went dark. It was a late autumn evening with no moon.
I went to check the neighbours and was struck by the fact most of them had torches and candles at the ready and warm homes that would take a while to cool off. When I got back the family were sat by a roaring fire with candles and it was all quite restful. Mercifully the power was not off long. I was reminded on the one hand how far we have come but also how quickly many would suffer if power cuts lasted a long time.
As Remembrance comes round again we should ponder how frail life and luxury are, how soft we have all become.
‘World on Fire’, one of the new BBC’s new dramas set in Poland at the start of World War Two brought this home to many as the Nazi’s began their reign of terror across Europe. The special effects reduced the beautiful cities, churches and railway stations to heart breaking rubble. I am ashamed to say it moved me more that when the News shows actual war zones now, but then the destruction came after showing the lives of the ordinary people just moments before the attacks. We now see so many survivors covered in dust we don't think of their lives earlier in the week.
Just a week before I watched ‘World on Fire’, I had seen ‘Hurricane’, a film which followed Polish air crew who had escaped and fought with the British in the RAF. They were exceptionally brave. The film was a true story and when the war was over we rewarded these men by deporting them within days of VE Day.
Not that long ago war seemed to have lost its sting; security, understanding and diplomacy seemed to have calmed many a conflict. We felt safe. That is not so assured these days. Syria, North Korea, Turkey, Hong Kong and much more tell us that light and calm could vanish even on these shores. It could happen very quickly. Police leave is rumoured to have been cancelled on Halloween, not for the ghouls but for Brexit. It all sounds unreal.
Edward Grey declared at the start of the First World War "The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our life-time." He was one of the longest serving Foreign Secretaries and he had been our Ambassador in Washington. He turned out to right for his generation. Two wars rolled through Europe and drew others into the mayhem of war.
I don't think war is coming back for the present but I think people are investing less in keeping the peace, in leaning on politicians to think of kindness not power. We don’t think turning the other cheek matters anymore. Compromise has become a dirty word in many nations and it is not healthy.
Whether you read Proverbs 17 (they should calve the words in every state building) or whether you read the Beatitudes (Matt 5:1-12) there is a pallet in scripture for care and wisdom for all nations. When that time for silences dawns for Remembrance we should all pray that the world finds and keeps it’s light for Peace. Without it the innocent and the weak suffer and perish; those who give the commands for it to happen so rarely suffer. At least not while they are on the earth. Christ came to bring light.