Last weekend the centenary commemorations of the horrendous Battle of Passchendaele were held. I found them extremely moving. Over half a million young men perished during 100 days in one of the bloodiest conflicts of the First World War. One of the most poignant times was when young people handed out wreaths at the Menin Gate. Most of the soldiers who died were their age: 17, 18, 19, even younger.
It is absolutely right that we remember those young men who died, and totally essential that politicians, royals and dignitaries from countries all over the world pronounce that “we shall remember” these half a million men and the many millions of men and women who died in that four-year conflict.
But they won’t remember! Which makes the act of remembrance an act of total hypocrisy!
They will forget.
They have forgotten in the past and will forget in the future.
If they REALLY remembered, would there have been so many wars since the Battle of Passchendaele?
No-one remembered Passchendaele just 20 or so years later when the world again went into battle, leading to the deaths of an estimated 15 million soldiers and 45 million civilians.
Did President Truman remember Passchendaele when his “police action” in the Korean War led to over 33,000 Americans losing their lives?
Was Passchendaele on the White House agenda before the US lost over 57,000 men and women during the Vietnam War?
After 9/11 in 2001, did President Bush remember Passchendaele? No, he launched his War on Terror which led to military action in Afghanistan and Iraq and nearly 7,000 US military casualties and more than 900,000 injured. And has it succeeded? The world is now a less safe place than before 2001. The War on Terror has simply made more terrorists, instigated more acts of terrorism, and led to increased terror among normal people doing normal things in airports, railway stations, concert halls, seaside promenades and other public places.
I am fully aware that there is no easy solution to stopping dictators like Hitler or terrorists like Osama bin Laden or organizations like al-Qaeda or the Islamic State.
But if we are really going to remember the past, surely there has to be an alternative to sending in troops?
What if, after 9/11, President Bush had reacted totally differently?
History records some of his statements:
- “We’re going to get the b******s. We’re at war.”
- “When we find out who did this, they’re not going to like me as president. Somebody’s going to pay.”
- “I can’t wait to find out who did it. It’s going to take a while and we’re not going to have a little slap on the wrist crap.”
- “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
What if he had remembered the past and said something like this:
- “I am going to remember the atrocities of Passchendaele, the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam and am not going to send more young men and women to die on foreign soil.”
- “These terrorists do not represent Iraq or Afghanistan. The majority of people in these countries are decent, law-abiding citizens. I am not going to pursue military action that could lead to their deaths.”
- “Instead of spending billions of dollars on military action, I am going to authorize investments in these countries to build roads, schools and hospitals; new ICT infrastructures; healthcare equipment and medical supplies.”
- “I intend to work with these people, and I appeal to them to hand over the terrorists who are living amongst them.”
You may say I am a dreamer (but I’m not the only one). You may say that such an approach is ridiculous, laughable, naïve, impractical …
But surely this approach couldn’t have left the world in a worse place than it is now?
Who knows how different it might be looking if this had been implemented 16 years ago?
Moreover, it’s an approach that removes the sickening hypocrisy from current remembrance services.
It shouts out loud “We will remember!” and puts those words into actions.
Over the years, I have attended quite a few services in different churches where the focus has been on taking care of God’s creation and looking after Planet Earth.
All very laudable and an excellent objective.
However, I began to notice that during these services, when it came to choosing and singing hymns relating to Planet Earth, the choice was very limited. I began to get rather tired of singing “How Great Thou Art” or “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”
What’s more, none of these hymns actually addressed current issues of climate change and the need to do something.
So I sat down and wrote one
Since then, my hymn has been sung in churches all over the world including Belgium, Finland, Germany, Sweden, UK, United States, Canada, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia.
It’s been sung in Protestant and Catholic churches: Anglicans, Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopals, Quakers etc.
It even made a surprising appearance in an Earth Service held among Native Americans!
Sometimes they asked to change some of the words (e.g. Father to Mother), which was fine. Sometimes they sang it, recited it like a poem, or even read it like a prayer.
I thought it was time to launch it into the blogosphere. If anyone wants to use it, feel free to. All I ask is that you drop me a line to tell me, and use the ©Denzil Walton mark. Thanks.
The Beauty All Around Us
Tune: Ewing 126.96.36.199 (e.g. Jerusalem the Golden)
The beauty all around us, throughout the universe,
So wonderful in essence, delightfully diverse.
Antarctica to Asia; the jungles of Brazil,
Established by the Father; and all evolving still.
From mountain tops to valleys; in forests and in parks,
We watch the playful squirrels; we hear the joyful larks.
Wild orchids so unusual; bright parakeets so loud,
Rare butterflies so fragile; the tiger standing proud.
Deep mysteries, of oceans and unknown outer space,
Migration paths of swallows, the eagle’s nesting place.
The more we gain in knowledge, the less we understand
This world so rich and complex; this wondrous, sacred land.
But crisis looms upon us; the planet’s under threat,
The global climate’s changing, the balance is upset.
The melting of the ice caps; diversity declines,
Extinction of key species; we’re overwhelmed with signs.
So Father please forgive us for spoiling Planet Earth,
Give us a chance to change it; to instigate new birth,
Let’s care for your creation, in details and in whole
Protect, preserve and cherish; may this be our new goal.
© Denzil Walton
An inspirational 3-minute video to express the fact that we have more in common with each other than we thought.
Do we have guardian angels? Personal angels who go where we go, protect us, guide us … even speak with us? I don’t know for certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
There are many Biblical references to angels: “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). To name but two.
And there’s experiential evidence too. All of us probably have stories where a complete stranger seemed to appear at just the right time to prevent an accident, help us make the right decision, find something that was lost etc. etc.
I came across this lovely story recently, which I am happy to re-post. It certainly makes you think …
Have you ever had a slow moving car pull out in front of you while you were rushing to get somewhere important?
Well, that’s happened to me many times.
Ah…but there was this one time that I had to thank my lucky stars for such an encounter!
Picture it…rural Georgia 19??
Lady G, a young mother and graduate student, was driving like a bat out of hell in order to make it to class on time.
I was running, oh I don’t know, 85-ish in a 55 mph kinda situation.
(My brother Tack says I should have been arrested as that was, indeed, ‘reckless driving.’)
I was making pretty good time when, seemingly out of nowhere, this 130 year old man pulled out of a side road onto MY highway!
He was going my way!
Or maybe I was going his way?
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It’s all too easy to think the “refugee crisis” is a modern-day phenomenon. But William Shakespeare put some strong words into the mouth of Sir Thomas More in the 16th century to make an impassioned plea for the humane treatment of refugees. Watch and listen to Ian McKellen give a passionate reading.
Since the US election result, I have been unable to get my head around the fact that so many white Christians voted for Donald Trump; a man whose public declarations of hate, injustice, racism, misogyny and other hurtful comments are so radically opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So I was enlightened and encouraged to read this article, which links to a letter written by a group of Christians who lay down some positive actions to take to “move forward together into the kind of future that God desires, where everyone is treated with respect and dignity, whatever their race, religion, gender, or national origin.”
In 1833, slavery was abolished in the UK. In 1865, it was abolished in the US. In 2017, there are more slaves than in any time in history.
A few appalling statistics
- There are an estimated 20 to 30 million slaves across the world today. As they are frequently hidden, it’s difficult to be exact.
- An estimated number of 800,000 people are illegally trafficked across international borders every year.
- 161 countries are affected by human trafficking.
- The total yearly profit gained from human trafficking is over $30 billion a year.
- In terms of profit, human trafficking is ranked as the 3rd largest international crime industry – just behind drugs and arms trafficking.
- Most modern slavery victims are between 18 and 24 years old.
- 1.2 million children are enslaved through forced labor and exploited in the sexual industry each year.
Different kinds of slavery
Sexual exploitation: Working in brothels, Internet sex, sexual abuse, forced prostitution and the abuse of children for the production of child abuse images.
Domestic servitude: This involves a victim being forced to work in private households, performing domestic chores and childcare duties.
Forced labour: It can happen in various industries, including construction, manufacturing, laying driveways, hospitality, food packaging, agriculture, maritime and beauty.
Criminal exploitation: The exploitation of a person to commit a crime, such as pick-pocketing, shop-lifting and drug trafficking, to get financial gain for the trafficker.
Other forms of exploitation: Organ removal, forced begging, cannabis cultivation, forced benefit fraud, forced marriage and illegal adoption.
Why is slavery so prevalent today?
Migration: Millions are on the move from poorer countries to wealthier ones, and from poorer rural areas to cities, in search of work. Far from home, often with no money, and unable to speak the local language, migrants are especially vulnerable to being tricked by traffickers pretending to be legitimate labor recruiters.
Corruption: Although slavery is illegal everywhere, some governments are so corrupt that they turn a blind eye to slavery, allowing it to go unpunished, or even thrive. In many countries, those in slavery have no police protection from predatory traffickers.
Discrimination: Social inequality is increasing, based on factors such as gender, race, tribe or caste, creates widespread economic and social vulnerability.
What can I do?
Here are some links to specific pages of organizations that are active in this area, with a host of practical actions:
A view from the UK
A view from the US
A couple of weeks ago, Daal asked me to write a guest post for her fascinating blog “Happiness Between Tails.” I’ve reblogged it on my own site.
When I happened upon Belgian blogger Denzil’s lovely site, I could hardly believe it — I was the first to comment there! Yes, it is new, but it so beautifully filled with joy and heart that I doubt it will remain a secret for long…
Photo by Denzil Walton
I know that walking in my local forest is good for my body. It’s good for my heart – it gets the blood flowing. It’s good for my lungs – it gets the air circulating. It’s good for my muscles – it tones them up.
But good for the soul?
Surely, to refresh my spirit I should head towards my local church or cathedral, not to my local forest?
Photo by Denzil Walton
Don’t get me wrong: if you like to visit a magnificent cathedral to get a spiritual lift, that’s fine. You might be enthralled by the architecture and the…
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Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo” is Michael McCarthy’s attempt to bring to our attention the worrying and drastic decline in numbers of Spring migrants to Europe. It’s a noble and important message. But for me, the way he writes failed to hold my attention.