Thought for the Day - 28/06/2014 - Rev Rob Marshall
Today is the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. Naftali Bendavid, writing this week in the Wall Street Journal, refers to the “lethal torrent” of events which “those bullets” unleashed as empires toppled; Virginia Woolf observed: “Then suddenly, like a chasm in a smooth road, the war came”.
The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will play in what's billed as a concert for peace in the newly restored Sarajevo Town Hall.There will, of course, be many more moments of reflection and commemoration during this centenary year leading up to the commencement of hostilities in 1914.
Whilst the reasons and causes for this conflict are many and complex, few would doubt that the assassination remembered today, prefigured the dawn of a shocking conflict which left irrevocable scars on future generations.
I’ve just reread Canon Alan Wilkinson’s book The Church of England and the First World War, updated and republished to mark the centenary, in which he describes a failure on the part of community leaders, philosophers and theologians to be able to deal adequately with the ferocity of what was to unfold.
The spiritual effect, Wilkinson puts forward, reflected the experience of the people of Israel whilst in exile in Babylon. The experience led to them to ask penetrating spiritual questions about what they believed about life as well as being a catalyst to reconsidering their own interpretation of history. The spiritual effects of the coming of World War One on the people produced similar questions, according to Wilkinson.
There’s a lot in the Old Testament about the consequences of violence on nations and individuals. The Wisdom Literature is wonderfully basic in its depth. Much of it is rooted in notions of shared responsibility combined with the quest for a dignified and peaceful life, whatever befalls us. The unity is rooted in a sense of belonging to a the wider community where wisdom prevails.
But, perhaps above all, such wisdom urges the leaving of a better and more secure civilisation for future generations so that they may not curse those who went before. This is a repetitive refrain in the Book of Proverbs. Act wisely now so that goodness might prevail.
What happened one hundred years ago today in Sarajevo, was in many ways a curse to future generations. Terrible suffering ensued. But a century on our task during this special year is surely to remember the great lessons of history so that wisdom might prevail.