The harsh reality of conflict

As I write, the violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza continues unabated, while the terrible mess that is spread all over eastern Ukraine continues; a background rumble of unresolved conflict can be heard in places such as Iraq and Afghanistan, while although pressing news has forced Syria off the front pages, violence, we may be sure, continues there relentlessly.

In all this, the innocent suffer most, as always. Pretty much as many French citizens were killed in Normandy as Allied soldiers on the beaches; many civilians lost their lives in Belgium, France and Germany as national armies fought in the First World War. In this country virtually every community was touched by the loss of young men and women – and by the uncomfortable presence of the seriously wounded after the war.

Jpatokal - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0Writing in the peace and quiet of a blistering English summer, it feels quite remote, all this. In Cyprus I came as near as I ever want to come to a war zone, as poor navigation led us into the “No Man’s Land” still patrolled by the UN between Greek Cyprus and the so-called Turkish Controlled Area. Scrubby, uncultivated fields were dotted with bullet-marked abandoned houses and farm buildings. A peaceful holiday was suddenly interrupted by the harsh reality of conflict, albeit in this case forty and more years old, though one got the feeling that matters there are still not fully resolved.

So Tyndale’s autumn programme begins and our lives in this peaceful English city continue with their usual mix of challenges, encouragements, things to face and joys to savour – in the midst of a conflicted world.

Please God such conflict as herein described will not find its way into our experience, though the commemoration of the 1914–18 war that will be a part of the national scene this autumn reminds us that once, not so very long ago, the ordinary everyday was brutally torn apart for millions of people all over Europe – and was again, not 25 years later.

Keith Clements’ book – We Will Remember – gives a fascinating insight into how some of those who professed Christian faith responded.

It’s a reminder that Christian faith is both a message to be proclaimed and a way of living – that is, a way of responding – whether to great national or international crises, or to the individual circumstances that each of us must face. In fact, I suppose you could say that the way we respond as Christians has a profound effect on the way the Christian message is proclaimed – and received.

Not a day goes by when we are not challenged to make a response. That challenge, in our world, requires us to avoid settling for cosy religious – or easy political – answers. Pressures such as nationalism, prejudice, fear of difference; the influence of propaganda and populism in the media – these things affect us and need to be acknowledged.

It is something of a luxury to be able to formulate a response to conflict in peaceful surroundings and plenty of folk have realised that authentic Christian responses usually involve cost one way or another. But then perhaps living by faith in any terms involves cost – it is in the nature of the faith we proclaim; God’s response to a sinful, suffering world was to take its sufferings into his very heart, in Christ Jesus – a costly response that changed everything, for ever.

It is not only a gift to us but an inspiration for us in our living – and responding – to the world in which we live.

Michael Docker