To truly remember, we must let war die. We must let the war dead rest in peace…

In this country of ours, we have a story and a history that is very sad. It is very traumatic for many people. I think today of those who have lost family, friends or comrades to the violent times here. In doing so, I am not judging one death or suffering family as any less or more deserving than another.

To remember something, it must, by definition, be in the past. If it is not in the past, we need not remember. In that case it is still with us and we can directly experience it. For many of us in this country, the violence of war and division is not in the past. It is still very much alive. We still see shootings and bombings even now- albeit on a smaller scale than before. Then there are people who have suffered so much trauma and have not been able to or had the support to deal with it, that the events of the past are not yet past at all. They relive these events anew each day.
I think we see also this in our politics at the minute, where political annihilation has taken the place of literal annihilation.

In the cases where the past is not yet the past, we do not remember. We perpetuate. That is different. To truly remember, we must let war die. We must let the war dead rest in peace. We must build our efforts as a society to help the traumatised and injured heal. We must live in the present and look to the future.

War graves in Belfast City Cemetery
War graves in Belfast City Cemetery

Walking in the City Cemetery recently with friends who have a military background, one remarked that she sees on many headstones of fallen soldiers, the words,
‘Thy will be done.’

She told me she does not like to see this, because it implies that war and death are in some way part of God’s plan. She does not believe this. Neither do I. There was a power to the two of us coming to that conclusion together; two people with very different lives and different experiences of war (she had joined up and carried a gun- I hadn’t and never would). But both now united around the need for peace and reconciliation.

True peace and reconciliation will require true remembrance- in other words that we let/allow/make/encourage the past be the past. It will also require moves into uncomfortable and unfamiliar meetings and conversations.

And so, today, remember. I remember all the war dead of all nationalities and all conflicts and all sides of those conflicts. I walked through the City Cemetery this morning in the pouring rain. The heavy drops of water falling from the sky masked my own tears as I prayed at the graves of people. Just people. Who died. And my prayer will be that never again will people die in war or conflict.

Jim Deeds is a husband and a father from Belfast. During his 44 years, Jim has worked as a busker; a film maker; a play write; a bar man; a glass washer; a social worker; a therapist; a manager of a children’s home; and an NHS manager. He is currently a pastoral worker for the Diocese of Down and Connor and an author. It is this variety in life experience and his observations that Jim brings to bear in his writing, always looking for the spiritual amongst the ordinary day to day. His book of spiritual reflections and poetry is available at priced £7