The Rector Writes – siege of Aleppo; refugees Remembrance and the Good Samaritan

The sieges of Aleppo and Mosul have been dominating the international news headlines in recent weeks. In both these battles, large numbers of civilians find themselves trapped and the level of human suffering and misery can scarcely be imagined. The tactics being employed differ widely. The purpose of the siege of Aleppo is to oust anti-government Syrian rebels and the siege is backed up by an indiscriminate air bombardment campaign by Syrian government and Russian backed forces. By contrast, the siege of Mosul is attempting to wrest back control of the city from ISIS militants and is largely ground based consisting of Kurdish and Iraqi forces.
However, this strategy is proving to be extremely slow due to suicide attacks and sabotage on the ‘liberating’ forces. In both conflicts there are widespread accusations that civilians are being used as human shields and that war crimes have been and are being committed.
Meanwhile, those civilians that can flee the conflict are continuing to stream into refugee camps with many attempting to move further afield to find a new life elsewhere. Aid agencies are estimating that the world is experiencing the largest volume of refugees since World War II and on a much more concentrated scale. Despite commitments by various countries to take in
numbers of these refugees, lengthy vetting processes and squabbles regarding migrant versus refugee definitions are impeding progress. In addition, growing nationalism, especially within European countries (including the U.K.), is turning public opinion against the resettlement of those most in need. This, in turn, is ensuring the prolonging of human misery for all concerned.
This month, on Sunday 13th November, we will be holding our annual Service of Remembrance. This Service commemorates those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the causes of justice, peace and freedom during the two world wars of the twentieth century. The purpose of this Remembrance is not to glorify war or death in any way, but rather to highlight the horrors of war and conflict.
It is also to highlight the futility of war in which there are never any winners but all are ultimately losers. These aims would appear to be never more relevant in our broken and divided world of today – in a world where there seems to be a growing trend of defining ‘us’ as against ‘others’. This was a worrying trend in much of the pro ‘Brexit’ rhetoric and has been continued by one of the candidates in the U.S. presidential campaign.
When Jesus was asked by a young lawyer (Luke 10:25ff, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’, Jesus, in turn, asked the lawyer what the Scriptures taught. The lawyer replied, ‘To love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength – and to love our neighbour as ourself.’ Jesus commended him for his answer. However, the lawyer wanting to justify himself asked, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. From that parable we learn that our neighbour is anyone (without exception) who might be in need – even if they can be classified as ‘other’ and not one of ‘us’. If we are to
live out our Christian beliefs and to follow the teachings of Jesus, we too will need to heed Jesus’ final command to the lawyer, ‘Go and do likewise’. (Luke 10:37b)
Every blessing,
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