I am sure you have all heard the expression ‘the past is all around us’, and I am sure that we would all acknowledge the truth of these words, living where we do. Ancient churches, homes, bridleways and footpaths all speak of times long past, and then there are the remains of the many airfields which dot our countryside and speak of our more recent history, which remind us of places far away, of wars fought.
These days we are reminded almost daily that armed conflicts still continue, despite the efforts of those who govern this world. Although many I have spoken to, especially individuals who survived the Second World War, will say that it is a terrible waste of life, there seems to be no end to humankind’s foolishness; our young continue to lose their lives on foreign battlefields. The lessons that many believed were learnt at the end of the first war and were repeated over and over again seem to have not made any difference. Although we hope and pray for peace, perhaps it is just not the way of the world.
So what other lessons can be learned from previous wars and their aftermath? Perhaps a starting point might be the way in which we care for individuals whose lives have been affected by war, especially our own servicemen and women and their families. The war in Afghanistan has raised our awareness of the casualties. Those casualties’ numbers are high, and many of them will need support throughout their lives. It is important that we also remember their families, who see in a sense strangers returning home. Our family has some experience of this as my eldest is a serving member of the armed forces; he had a difficult time re-adjusting to life in the UK when he returned from Afghanistan following his first tour, and so it is for many others.
There is perhaps little we can do as individuals to stop wars, but we have the ability to try to demonstrate love by working towards alleviating the pain of those who serve their country overseas, so that they are able to live full and rewarding lives despite their memories, experiences and injuries.
Revd. Mary Jepp