I wrote these words last year. They encapsulate so well what I have been feeling for years, and so I reproduce them here once more.
Remembrance Day is around the corner. The ubiquitous poppies are in full bloom on everyone’s coats (until they fall down or poke you, that is). This year as every year I am reminded of how history has an effect on who we are and who we are becoming. Those of you who know me well know that my favourite reading material surrounds the accounts of European history in both World Wars. Currently my fun time read is The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914 by Christopher Clark. Some of you would question the relationship of a pacifist Christian being fascinated by World War history. And yet, my reading again and again brings me to the astonished realization that our world today has been shaped by the actions of people, real people, whether good or evil. The decisions taken in the early 1900 and then again in the 1930’s were taken by humans.
And those who suffered, whether they died or returned, often went in the belief they were fighting for God and Country.
And throughout it all, it becomes clear once again how our fallacies, our reluctance to look beyond our own borders, our own rights, our own safety and our own understandings leads to violence, suffering and genocide. As the teaser for The Sleepwalkers states: “These rulers, who prided themselves on their modernity and and rationalism, stumbled from crisis to crisis and finally convinced themselves that war was the only answer.” How many of us can find ourselves in these “rulers” as we stumble convinced by our own rationality and wisdom.
At a times of this I am also reminded of my own heritage. My maternal grandparents lived in the Alsace a hotly contested piece of property that more often that not led to conflict between France and Germany (my continual regret is to not have documented stories about the war from my grandparents). On the other hand my paternal grandparents fled from Communism in Russia and through the aid of Germany managed to eventually land in Paraguay, where the Mennonite colonists themselves later on had to wade through conflicting feelings about Nazi ideology. Lastly, the country I have spent most of my life in has been at times a haven for Nazi refugees post WWII.
To think that my life, and my heritage has been unaffected by war would be naiveté at best or deliberate ignorance at worst.
So as Remembrance Day roles around I am reminded by my Grandpa’s book “Lest you Forget the Stories.” I realize now, as I do every November 11th, that remembering is important. My Grandfather in his book quotes Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
So as this Remembrance Day roles around l wear the poppy remembering not only those who following their own convictions or that of their government and went to fight the “War that was to End all Wars” and the one that came after and the ones who have followed since. I remember those who refused to fight, those who fled from the violence, those who perished and also those who are perishing now. I remember my grandparents and cherish their stories as they become part of my story.
And lastly, I remember that God’s Kingdom goes beyond our borders, beyond our countries, beyond our race and beyond the boundaries that want to make us individuals.
I wear the poppy because I reminds me of the folly all of us take part in, and that peace is not perfect… it’s messy, takes work and needs continual reminder that many in this world are not experiencing peace right now.