In Prayer, Remembrance and Peace – Marking WWI centenary

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In Prayer, Remembrance and Peace - Marking WWI centenaryAn Ecumenical Service was held at St George’s Basilica in Victoria to mark the first centenary since the end of the First World War – “the war to end all wars” and to remember those who died in Gozo – In Prayer, Remembrance and Peace.

The homily of the Bishop of Gozo Mgr Mario Grech, is shown in full below – Wage war against indifference.

“We have been summoned here to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War and to honour those men and women who have served in the armed forces. We are gathered to give thanks to those who sacrificed their lives for freedom.

The brave people we are remembering are calling us to recognise their shared suffering by building a better future where difference is accepted and respected. We ought to be filled with profound and abiding gratitude to all our fallen forebears. We are assembled here to pray to our God of mercy and reconciliation for peace.

When in 1918, in Paris, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the Armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed, the world was convinced that such conflicts would never ensue again. Very sadly, history has proved this wrong. During the Great War itself, paradoxically known as “the war to end all wars,” there were 40 million casualties. Between 1914 and November 2018, over 70 million military personnel was engaged in war. Unfortunately even today we still live in a world of heightened tension.

As Pope Francis rightly underlined, “today the world once more is at war and is preparing to go even more forcefully into war” (3.11.2017).

Does this simply imply that we have learnt nothing from this experience? How can one explain the fact that many have completely forgotten all about the millions of soldiers, the vast majority young men, that had fallen; the millions that bore the scars of war, psychological and physical; the millions that mourned the absent and lost, etc? In Pope Francis’ words, “it seems that we don’t learn” (11.11.2018).

Regrettably, “globalisation of indifference” has taken hold of too many of the world’s people, numbing them to the horrifying reality faced by victims of war and violence around the world.

The Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Laurate Elie Wiesel notes that “etymologically, the word (indifference) means ‘no difference’. A strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil.”

According to Wiesel indifference can be seductive: “it is so much easier to look away from victims; it is much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person’s pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbour are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.”

Thus Wiesel reminds us that for humans to be truly indifferent to the pain of other human beings, including their own selves, they have to reduce human beings into abstractions, things, means, statistics and tools!

It is very saddening that today the stench of indifference still reaches our nostrils. The global indifference to the plight of the people of Syria and Ukrania has been staggering. The stark indifference to the suffering of immigrants and refugees.

It was very appalling when lately, as I was entering Miami from Perù, I heard the security officer instructing us to help the boarder authorities to keep the “rats” away! The patently unjust economic arrangements can only produce indifference among the wealthy minority over the poor majority.

Human indifference to the cries of the earth, groaning under the choking hold of wanton human greed, continues to contribute to the ever growing environmental impoverishment.

As Wiesel remarks, “better an unjust God than an indifferent one.” Yet, according to our Christian belief, God is neither unjust nor indifferent. In the Gospel, Jesus assures us: “Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name… Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16,24). God will never forsake us. Only we humans are so weak that we can cease to remember our suffering brothers and sisters.

Thus, it is very appropriate that periodically we hold such days of remembrance. On this day we remember to act – we remember past wars to revive the struggle against forgetting – and wage a new war against indifference.”

Photographs: MGOZ/Terry Camilleri

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