The Iraq war
St Peter's Rectory - April 2003
I am writing this on the morning that war with Iraq has broken out. It is difficult to turn my mind to much else. It is far too early to know what is going to happen as a result of this conflict, and the long-term effect on international relations, but it is hard to believe that things will easily be the same again. The sense of foreboding around our community, around the country and around the world has been great, but many of us hoped and believed that our government and the American government would exercise a much greater degree of restraint and statesmanship than has been the case. No-one could make any sort of case for sympathy for Saddam Hussein. His foolish politicking has been instrumental in bringing us to this point, and his cruelty towards many of his own people is undeniable.
But we are now in a very dangerous position in the world - a world in which we all recognise, in theory, that we are dependent on one another, but where the inequalities of wealth are so great and the control of resources in the hands of so few. One regime, a very powerful regime, arbitrarily making choices as to whether to be an integral part of the international community, using the United Nations Organisation when it suits them and ignoring it at other times (and refusing to pay its share of the costs) has in effect set itself up as the global policeman. It will decide, according to its own criteria, who is acceptable and who is not, what action to take against regimes it dislikes, and when to take that action. Having unilaterally declared an ‘axis of evil’ of which Iraq was one member, one can only assume that President Bush will pursue the others once this present war is won. Of course, the corollary of this is that the use of terrorism is almost bound to increase around the world, more and more nations will be drawn into the crisis, and the axis will gain yet more members. The problem is that United States judgement, intelligence and action are not always accurate, as the attack on Khartoum quite clearly demonstrated in September 1998, when a perfectly innocent pharmaceutical factory was destroyed by missiles after attacks on US Missions in Kenya and Tanzania.
So what is the message for Holy Week and Easter? Well, over the past few weeks in my sermons I have been trying to encourage people to connect with their feelings and their emotions, to allow their faith more readily to get to work ‘in the gut’, because that is where it is really tested. It is in our most passionate, our most challenging moments that we discover whether we trust God or not, or whether we find compassion and companionship in our faith community. That is what Holy Week is about. We can all spout the elements of the Creed. We can all ‘affirm our faith’ in our Sunday worship together. But what about when we are in the midst of tragedy and real suffering?
I hope and pray this war will be over by Good Friday. I pray we will not lose interest when it does end, because the reality of the disaster may only become real after the event, precisely because everyone will lose interest. But during our Good Friday service, I have invited five people who have really been through the mill in a range of different ways in their life to come and talk to us about their experience and whether or where they found the glimmers of hope. Please come, listen and pray, and use their stories to help you get in touch with similar, if less dramatic stories in your life. Easter will then take on a whole new meaning - and especially the 5.30am Dawn Eucharist. Come and celebrate that great gift of Faith, Hope and Love.