Messages of peace without commitment and effort to make it a reality, waste the victory so heavily fought for in WW1, the Archbishop of Wales said today (Nov 11).
Peace was not an “unattainable ideal” but we needed to commit to it daily in order to build the world people gave their lives for, said Archbishop John Davies. Such commitment would, he warned, be challenging, calling for effort and risk.
The Archbishop was delivering the address at Wales’ National Service of Thanksgiving at Llandaff Cathedral. The service was organised by the Welsh Government to mark 100 years since the end of WW1. It was attended by the First Minister and the Earl and Countess of Wessex, as well as invited representatives from the world of politics, Lord Lieutenants and High Sheriffs, faith leaders, Armed Forces, Honorary Consuls and emergency services. It was broadcast live on BBC Wales.
Archbishop John described the WW1 as “one of the most significant, brutal and wasteful conflicts in the world’s history”. He said, “Significant because it highlights the toxic consequences that follow when factors such as territorial and personal ambition, imperial and economic rivalry, ugly nationalism and inadequate diplomacy collide, whether deliberately or by chance.
“Brutal because, for the first time, killing designed on an industrial scale using, aircraft, tanks and poison gas, was undertaken.
“Wasteful because of the massive loss of life and livelihood resulting not only from armed combat, but from disease and injury. 16 million or more people, over five-times the present population of Wales, died either in or because of the conflict; millions more lives were blighted by mental and physical injuries sustained; and countless more lives were blighted by the loss of loved ones or the ongoing pain of having to witness the lasting suffering of those who survived, terribly injured.”
Remembrance, said Archbishop John, “should cause us to journey beyond basic knowledge and bare fact, to reflection, to begin to grasp and feel, deep within ourselves, something of the devastating consequences of what is remembered: the human cost – the pain, the grief, the stink, the filth, the degradation, the sorrow. Countless lives ruined; countless hopes shattered.”
The Archbishop urged people to react with a daily commitment to justice and peace and to be God’s light in the world and channels of His peace.
He said, “Tragically, the gift of peace with which the world was presented one hundred years ago has regularly and bloodily been squandered in many different places and in many subsequent years. But if this leads us to simply view prayers and messages of peace as expressions of admirable sentiments but unattainable ideals, we risk emptying today of real meaning; we risk, as Prime Minister David Lloyd-George reflected in November 1918, wasting the victory that had been won; merely ringing joy-bells.
“May this not be so. May today’s remembering, today’s reflecting lead us to reacting positively, graciously and generously in making every effort to make our world, our nation, our communities, the kind of place which those whose lives we honour, and for whom we give thanks, believed they were fighting to build.”