Friday, May 8th
It would be hard to imagine what it felt like to be in Trafalgar Square celebrating the end of war in Europe if it were not for the memories of the over 80s and newsreel footage. We cannot even compare it to more recent situations because there has been nothing like it in Britain since.
Even today's lockdown is no comparison. We aren't listening for air raids, we don't have black out blinds for night time and the only rationing we have is toilet paper and flour. To endure six years of hardship, bloodshed and constant fear is almost unimaginable. Little wonder they celebrated.
And when we get to celebrate, it will be after a gradual easing of distancing over months, rather than being at war one week and unbridled liberty the next.What a concerted international effort it needed to stem the aggression of Hitler and his allies.
It is a timely reminder of the cooperation worldwide that there is now to be a memorial at the National Arboretum to recognise the contribution of our Caribbean comrades and the sacrifices they made alongside the Allies. And we should not forget at this time, the terrible suffering which followed the end of the war for so many innocent women, men and children in Germany in particular.
We have moved on in 75 years. In that time we have moved ever closer to Europe as a Community, only to turn our backs on our neighbours at the end of January. I hope we can repair that damage in a better future. Isn't that what we need to do as a tribute to those courageous generations who fought for our freedom? Work for a better future where we prefer cooperation to conflict and fight together against poverty, prejudice and pollution.
In 25 years there will be few, if any, who will have vivid memories of VE Day, 1945. People will look back at 2020, however, and will reflect on what came out of the worldwide pandemic. I hope they will be able to say that that year was a turning point in history when we turned from present self-interest to future well-being.
Meanwhile, let's celebrate the peace we have enjoyed here for 75 years. Let's also work for a deeper peace dreamed of by these four visionaries:
I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.
I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.
Martin Luther King Jr
For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
We pray for peace, but not the easy peace built on complacency and not the truth of God. We pray for real peace, the peace God’s love alone can seal.
We pray for peace, but not the cruel peace, leaving God’s poor bereft and dying in distress, we pray for real peace, enriching all the human race.
We pray for peace, and not the evil peace, defending unjust laws and nursing prejudice, but for the real peace of justice, mercy, truth and love.
We pray for peace: holy communion with Christ our risen Lord and every living thing; God’s will fulfilled on earth and all his creatures reconciled.
We pray for peace, and for the sake of peace, look to the risen Christ who gives the grace we need, to serve the cause of peace and make our own self-sacrifice.
God, give us peace: if you withdraw your love, there is no peace for us nor any hope of it. With you to lead us on, through death or tumult, peace will come.