Letter from the Vicar (June 2010)
It is often assumed that religious people are people of peace.
That is usually the case these days, but sadly in time past many religious leaders were involved in warfare in one way or another. Today virtually all of us believe in peace.
Sometimes the media presents some religions – Islam, for example – as violent. But this is true of only a tiny minority of genuine believers. As I said, most religious people strongly believe in peace and work for peace. In my judgement it is vitally important to work for peace and for the maintenance of peace. Sadly I think many people consider war and violence are more glamorous than peace. A lot of the films I watch and the television programmes that we can see portray war and violence as exciting and thrilling. The same is true of a lot of games. Of course war and violence contain more action opportunities. But people who have actually experience them will soon tell you that there is nothing glamorous or thrilling about the reality of war. Winston Churchill famously said that “jaw, jaw is better than war, war.” In other words, talking is far better than fighting.
It is one reason to be positive about the recent formation of a coalition government with parties working together. During the recent election campaign I often felt that that the challenges facing our country and our world needed a collaborative rather than a competitive response. In the Church we are increasingly and rightly taught that ministry must be co-operative and surely this should also apply to the work of government. Politics sometimes becomes very confrontational, even war-like; perhaps it is high time we moved to a more peaceful approach.
Another area in which it is vitally important to emphasise peace is in the way we look at history. The highlights of history are often presented as being wars and battles. The most notable and well-remembered date in English history is, after all, the date of a battle. I would like to suggest that we should concentrate less on history dominated by war and think also of the times of peaceful progress. This would include the last World War which we continue to give great attention to. Of course I rejoice in the victory over Nazism and Fascism. I also feel very powerfully the need to remember in thanksgiving those who laid down their lives in the cause of freedom.
But as well as remembering the conflicts of the 1930s and 40s we could do very well to focus on the peace that was built after the war and which has existed in this continent since that time. Apart from the localised conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s there has been 65 years of unbroken peace in Europe since 1945. Surely something to celebrate! Today we need to concentrate on present achievements and work for peace in the years ahead. We must encourage young people in particular to work to make this a peaceful world. As a Christian leader I have always sought to encourage people to put aside any narrow nationalism, any negative attitudes towards people of other nations and races, and work towards the goal of peace on earth, goodwill among all people.