After four years of conflict, at a cost of more than 18 million lives and over 20 million casualties, the First World War came to an end at 11am on Monday, 11th November 1918. A century on, we know that this conflict wasn’t ‘the war to end all wars’. More was to come – as it always has done. Barely twenty years after the first, the Second World War brought more untold suffering on global scale.
Between the W.W.’s life and death struggles, now considered historical footnotes by some, continued as they had done long before. And arguably, in the second half of the 20th Century, the bloodletting stepped up a gear – some of it in the gaze of international scrutiny and condemnation; much of it conveniently forgotten. The pages of history document episodes which have each added names to the unfathomable list of those who have suffered and died as a result of humanity’s seemingly insatiable lust for conflict. Each Sunday, we continue to pray for those caught up in today’s conflicts around the world.
Whilst the war to end all wars did not result in the end of warfare itself, its global nature perhaps made the end of this particular episode the first opportunity for humanity to collectively pause for thought. The Rev David Railton’s idea that an unidentified British soldier should be buried with ceremony at Westminster Abbey ‘amongst Kings’ is just one example of how this war seemed to make the old presumptions seem preposterous. Perhaps humanity could yet glimpse the forever far-off dream of goodwill and peace on earth.
It was not to be. At least not in the lifetimes of those who were involved in the Great War. But just as the controversial Treaty of Versailles continues to silently shape our modern world, the echoes of music and stories from a century ago can still shape our future.
Please do come and listen to our two remembrance events, Music & Stories for a past century and Fauré’s Requiem on the 7th and 11th of November, respectively. Along with all the First World War commemorations taking place throughout the world, in their own way they help us to share our common humanity and our collective hope for the future, as those that lived to survive the Great War did a century ago.
When we fail to learn from the past.
Lord, have mercy.
When we let national and personal interests blind us to the suffering of the world.
Christ, have mercy.
When we forget the cost of the freedom we enjoy.
Lord, have mercy.