Remembrance Sunday is a time when traditionally we have in the Church of England remembered those who fought from our local areas in the two world wars but particularly World War 1. The memorial plaques by the altar remember the names of those who from the streets in this area went to war. At the end of the service, we will place the folder that tells the stories of some of those men on a table in the sanctuary for people to look at and read.
For those men we lay our Red Poppy Wreath
But the wars were world wars and impacted on people throughout the world. Many see the wars particularly the 1st World War as a fight between European powers for influence and power around the globe, a fight to see who would colonise the most nations and extract their resources for their own benefit. Many were recruited from the colonies to fight for one side or the other depending upon whom their colonial rulers were. It is believed across the continent two million Africans participated in fighting for one side or the other in the 1st World War. Also 16,000 men from the Caribbean Islands volunteered to fight for the British in the 1st World War and over 10,000 in the 2nd World War
For these peoples we place our Black Rose Poppy Wreath
And we also remember the 1.3 million men from India who served for Britain in the 1st World War with 80,000 losing their lives
There were also those who refused to fight, men whose faith or other beliefs led them to refuse to enlist even when in Britain it became compulsory. They became known as conscientious objectors they were called cowards by many, but they displayed – lots of them Christians – a different kind of courage. We also remember not just the combatants but civilians women, children and men who suffered or died because of war.
For these people we lay the White Poppy Wreath
But we also today seek not to glorify war but to pray for peace, but a peace with justice and to do that we need to acknowledge the grave injustices that were inflicted upon peoples around the globe by the European nations during and after the 1st World War.
Kurdish people were promised by the British their own homeland if they fought for them against the Ottomans, they did, but the promise was not kept and a hope of self determination denied, a hope that is still longed for today and actively struggled for by brothers & sisters who are part of our community.
We also remember those African nations who were divided by the colonialists for example Cameroon, a German colony before 1st World War it was divided between Britain and France after Germany was defeated and a divided nation created, that has been the source of further conflict. People of both sides of that divide have been part of our community at Chad/Mark.
And Persia, from which many in our congregation have come, sought to be neutral during the war but the European powers, particularly Britain refused to allow it to be so, invaded parts of the country and both before the 1st World War began and afterwards sought to get control of its oil resources for their own use. As one British diplomat said ‘Persia, during the war, had been exposed to violations and sufferings not endured by any other neutral country.’ A famine that lasted between 1917 -1919 was created because the British controlled food supplies that it directed towards its massive forces in Mesopotamia.
So, we come to this Eucharist, as we come to all Eucharists seeking forgiveness, comfort, challenge, reconciliation and hope as a community of many cultures and nationalities. We come to pray for a world where resources are shared equally and the values of God’s Kingdom reign. We come not to worship any nation but to worship the prince of peace, hope and justice, our true liberator, Jesus Christ.