On the 28th June 1914 the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, started a chain of events which would ultimately lead the world to war. The 4th of August will mark the 100th anniversary of Britain officially entering the conflict. Many places of worship, including Gloucester Cathedral, will mark this National Day of Commemoration with a tribute to those who fought and died.
Today the horrors of war are still very real. Every day we are brought news of the seemingly unresolvable conflict between Israel and Palestine, and the uprising in Ukraine which has become a global tragedy with the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight 17. There are continuing civil wars in Syria, Somalia and the Ivory Coast, and insurgence fighting in Afghanistan; the list, sadly, goes on.
As we remember those from the past who died in the First World War, we also pray that each and every one of these current conflicts is resolved quickly and peacefully, without the further loss of life. Maybe one day we will learn to end confrontations before they escalate into wars.
But in order to do that, we first need to remember and recognise. Remember that each person caught up in war has a story as to why they are there, and recognise that we need to understand their lives and what brought them to this point before seeking a resolution.
‘I went to see the soldiers’ by Kenny Martin
I went to see the soldiers, row on row on row
And wondered about each so still, their badges all on show.
What brought them here, what life before
Was like for each of them?
What made them angry, laugh, or cry,
These soldiers, boys and men.
Some so young, some older still, a bond more close than brothers
These men have earned and shared a love, that’s not like any others
They trained as one, they fought as one
They shared their last together
That bond endures, that love is true
And will be, now and ever
I could not know, how could I guess, what choices each had made,
Of how they came to soldiering, what part each one had played?
But here they are and here they’ll stay,
Each one silent and in place
Their headstones line up row on row
They guard this hallowed place
Matthew Brunt, Diocesan Management Accountant