Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. Psalm 146
War and the dream of peace. I have so much trouble with Remembrance Day. It seems to me that the only tribute that makes sense would be to break our weapons and turn them into tools for living. But that would mean a change in our songs, our prayers, our economic and foreign policies. Every generation survives on the blood of another. All our monuments and holy places cover battlefields. The earth is soaked in the violence of humans. You probably have photo albums of your family in a time of war just as I do. I look at the young faces before they left, and I look at the ghosts in the eyes of the ones who returned. And between those two stories lie all the other victims.
I want to remember today the ones who died as young men and women with dreams and hopes. I think of them sacrificing all that they had and thought they might accomplish because diplomacy failed and greed and fear won. Nobody wins in war except the makers of weapons. Nations are broken and impoverished. Schools are burned, crops destroyed. The ones who live carry scars both visible and invisible. The non-combatants too are wounded, the refugees and orphans, the traumatized, and the grief stricken. There is no glory in war except for those who create war.
And so I resist remembering because it is painful, because I know that we are not done with war, and because I am afraid for the children yet to come into this violent world. Although I know few of those who died, I feel guilt and grief that war became the concluding chapter of their lives. I give thanks for their sacrifices and I pray for forgiveness that we have not found a way to control our greed and rage. I want to shelter all those in uniform today, shelter them form both physical and emotional harm. I want the light of peace to uncover the secrets of violence, to heal old wounds, and to make bridges between people. I want to think of soldiers as those who rescue us in times of danger, who know how to deal with tsunamis and with drought, with the cataclysms of earth and the unexpected catastrophes.
It has been said that war is a failure, but it is not true. War is the game of the powerful as they use people’s lives like pawns on a board. There are winners but they remain cloaked in their power and security. All the rest of us are impoverished by their schemes. We become the widows of 1 Kings 17:8-16 and Mark 12:38-44.
And so today, we can place a wreathe at the cenotaph, but the best remembrance we can bring is repentance for the violence and the remaining prejudices in our own hearts. The solution to complicity with war propaganda is a deep commitment to see each person as precious, as like us: to see each child as our child, each soldier as our loved one.
We can fix a star of hope in our hearts and a pledge that someday we will dispute the war makers and instead hear the peace makers and we will act. We will come to the temple with the trust of the widows in 1 Kings and Mark, who give everything they have; out of poverty, they offer the only gift worth giving, their trust and their belief in a new day.
On that new day, neither nationalism, nor fear will be able to cloud our vision of peace. On that day we will not come to the monuments with tears of grief but with the banners of change for all the lives to come. We will say to the fallen, we have finally heard you and bring you the new world for which you died so long ago. Your deaths were not in vain. We honour you and we give thanks for your sacrifice that taught us not to fight again. May the reign of peace come soon.