2014 obviously marks the one hundredth anniversary of the First World War. It seems likely to see its own trench warfare between those who want to expropriate the war to glorify nationalism and military solutions, and those who wish to use it to condemn all use of force.
We need a much more considered debate. My choice of ‘sides’ was deliberately provocative – few I think would agree they want to glorify the blood, gas, and psychological damage. And few pacifists who have thought deeply can condemn those who in careful consideration of the issues, took up arms with regret, who saw their duty differently. There is however a very clearfight going on between those who want to play up the nobility of dying for King and Country and those who want to attack the political and military leaders who saw so many people die.
War and the preparation for war are seen as incompatible with the spirit of Christ, in the Quaker tradition. War is, we feel, always a failure. Yet few can see a large country invade a small one, or mass murder on religion, ethic or political grounds, without feeling some weight to the other side. I know someone whose current message to peaceniks is “The non-invasion of Syria is going well then?”
I hope that we will as individuals and as a meeting find a way to engage with the story, that emphasises the spiritual need to seek justice, reconciliation and healing, honouring those who suffered, on whatever side.