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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

7 November 2018: Tom Cooper, Reader, St Mary’s Church, Buriton

Thanksgiving for Peace

For the last few months silhouettes of World War I servicemen have been appearing in businesses’ windows throughout Petersfield, reminding us of the approaching centenary of the end of that ‘War to end all Wars’ – as it was hoped it would be, following the Armistice.

With heads bowed and rifles in the ‘reverse arms’ position, the silhouettes express the mourning for the loss of almost an entire generation here in this country and throughout Europe with special poignancy. And I’m sure that, despite the focus on the sacrifice of Englishmen on the Western Front that the silhouettes specifically call to mind, we will also not forget the huge losses and suffering inflicted on servicemen and populations worldwide, nor the immense labours and hardships suffered by civilians and the massive workload borne by women everywhere during the conflict.

Nevertheless, while we rightly remember with gratitude the self-sacrifice of so many, we will also give thanks for the coming of peace, as the survivors did on the morning of 11 November 1918. As Christians, we know that God is the God of love and peace, not of war and hatred – even though much blood has been and continues to be cruelly spilt in His name.

Psalm 57, set by the Book of Common Prayer as one of the morning psalms for the 11th day of the month, begins (in Coverdale’s poetic translation, which would have been familiar to many English soldiers on the Western Front): ‘Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me, for my soul trusteth in thee; and under the shadow of thy wings shall be my refuge, until this tyranny be over-past’.

This could be the prayer of all those who continue to live under the tyranny of war.

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