In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
November 11, 2018 will mark 100 years since the Armistice was signed to end World War I. The war was declared over at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, ending the bloody battle that changed the world. Perhaps you’ve seen how the United Kingdom is commemorating the 100th anniversary with the Tower of London’s moat filled with thousands of torches to honor those who died. Some historians estimate that 40 million people died In World War I (with around 20 million deaths being civilians.) There were years of trench warfare, people slaughtering each other over small parcels of land. Enemies were close enough that they could even yell across the lines and hear one another. The first large-scale use of chemical weapons was in World War I as the Germans used mustard gas that killed many. The last living veteran of World War I died in 2012, an English woman named Florence Green who died when she was 110 and served in the Women’s Royal Air Force during the war.
So we won’t see World War I veterans observing the Armistice Anniversary events, compelling us to not forget the atrocities and to not repeat the mistakes of the past. World War I was known as “the Great War” and “the War to End All Wars.” Unfortunately that was not the case. 100 years out, we may even wonder what, if anything, has changed. Chemical and biological weapons were banned under the Geneva Protocol after World War I. Yet chemical weapons have been used against civilians in the Syrian Civil War, a war that continues to this day.
It was learning about World War I that caused me to stumble over my view of humanity, contemplating what human beings are capable of doing to one another. Wondering if we are truly good to our core . . . or not. It was reading poems like “In Flanders Fields” and “Dulce et Decorum Est” that made me contemplate the toll that war takes on a person’s body and spirit, feeling grateful for those among us who serve in the military (especially on this Veteran’s Day weekend) while also wishing that war was viewed as a last resort more often. Thankfully I had many conversations about all of this with my grandfather, who served as a First Sergeant in the Army and fought in Korea and Vietnam. Sharing with him that I longed for peace back in high school, Grandpa would say, “Well of course you need to advocate for peace, sugar. You’re gonna be a preacher, and that’s what we need to hear from you!”
Thus, on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I–the Great War, the War to End All Wars–I am thinking about and praying for peace this week. Remembering the millions of lives lost. Hopeful that we are capable of achieving long and lasting peace, one day, with God’s help.
P.S. I wrote this reflection yesterday, before waking up to the news of another mass shooting—this time 13 people killed at a bar in Thousand Oaks, California. Let us hold the victims, their families, and the community in Thousand Oaks in our hearts and pray for them.
(This Week’s Thoughts 11.8.18)