Lest We Forget...

First published November 2017

The Reverend Ray Gibbs urges us to remember the past and our duty to seek peace.

Earlier this year we watched on our televisions pictures from the Menin Gate as we remembered the horrors of 100 years ago. It is hard to understand the sheer scale of the death and suffering endured by so many from around the world. I remember staring out of the minibus window as a young 16 year old returning from Taize, en route to Calais and the ferry, passing cemetery after cemetery, the white headstones mingling with the black crosses of not just hundreds, but thousands of young men. In the region of Ypres alone, there are 100 British and Commonwealth military cemeteries.

For me, Tyne Cot Cemetery brings it vividly home. It is the largest WW1 Commonwealth cemetery in the world. Almost 12,000 servicemen are buried there; 12,000 white stones, 8,000 are unidentified.  Around the edge is a wall with 35,000 names of soldiers whose bodies were never recovered. These all fell defending Ypres 1914 - 18, and their names couldn’t fit on the Menin Gate in Ypres itself. The cemetery is both beautiful and horrific all at the same time.

It was beautiful because the manicured lawns, flowers, headstones and memorials have a picturesque appeal, but it was horrific as behind every headstone and name lay a person whose God given potential was cut off, frequently at an exceptionally young age. It was moving, it was saddening, and remembering it now, it reminds me again of why we commemorate Remembrance Day.

We live in a messy, fallen world, and though we would like to think it, there is no easy answer. Jesus did say, however, ‘Blessed be the peacemakers’. And whether we are pacifists or believe that sometimes war is a necessary evil, if we are truly to “Remember”, it is our duty in our generation to seek true peace between neighbour and nation; and that starts within us.

Once again we are on the brink, and we have nations plotting for war, so let us all pray for the future as we remember.


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