Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembering by building peace

This morning at 11:00, along with millions around the country, many of us will be taking took part in 2 minutes silence to remember those who have lost their lives fighting to protect the country they loved. With Sir Winston Churchill's words of "never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few" ringing in my ears I will remember those who have fallen over the past century, defending the rights that many of us enjoy.

Remembering and honouring the lost heroes with silence is fitting; at the same time, I was wondering yesterday evening, how I could go further to honour those who have given so much for the peace and happiness that I enjoy? 27 years ago, five people – including my great-great-uncle Tony Berry – were tragically killed in the Brighton Bomb. Five lives and many other livelihoods were destroyed or damaged in a moment of hatred; the murdered and those who were injured were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends to so many. Over the past 12 years, Tony Berry’s daughter, Jo, has built a relationship with Patrick Magee, the Brighton bomber. This has not been without controversy, but they now stand on platforms together speaking of hope and peace for Northern Ireland. Some have praised her work, others have criticised it. The path of forgiveness – especially where there has been such pain caused by an act of such hatred – is so emotive and I'm not going judge people as to whether they walk that path or not.

As the Vicar of Baghdad, Canon Andrew White has been kidnapped, robbed, hijacked, and has received countless death threats over the years. A Brit with Multiple Sclerosis, Andrew lives amid the sectarian violence I only read about, and calls leading Shiite, Sunni, and other Iraqi leaders his close friends in the struggle to end the conflict. For over 15 years, he has dedicated his life to reconciliation in the Middle East by focusing on the positive role we can play in resolving conflicts. Living in constant danger, he negotiates the release of hostages, builds relationships with key religious leaders, fosters peace agreements, and provides desperately needed food, hospital treatment and shelter to victims of violence.

What would happen if as well as honouring the dead with silence, I honoured their legacy by being a peacemaker, both in the way I forgave others and in the way I helped build peace amongst my friends and communities? In the words of Desmond Tutu "without forgiveness, there's no future".

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