Here’s a drama/prayer of confession you might like to use on November 11, when the world marks the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War One. You’ll need two readers: one who can act with some bluster and ignorance, and another who can handle some tricky place names.
Reader 2: And we’re sorry that it didn’t.
Reader 1: (Surprised) Didn’t what?
Reader 2: We’re sorry that the Great War actually ended up have to be renamed as the First World War, because we ended up having a second, even ‘greater’ war just 21 years later.
Reader 1: (Confidently) But then I’m certain that cleared things up.
Reader 2: No. I’m afraid it didn’t. In fact, we’ve scarcely stopped fighting since. The Cold War started immediately, then the Korean War, then the French-Algerian War, then the Sudanese Civil War, then the Suez Crisis, then the Vietnam War
Reader 1: Oh yes, I’ve heard of that one. Surely that was the end of it though?
Reader 2: Nope. Then the Six Day War, the Soviet-Afghan War, The Iran-Iraq War, The Persian Gulf War, The Third Balkan War, the Kosovo War, the Iraq War, the Global War on Terrorism, the Afghanistan War, the Syrian Civil War.
Reader 1: Is that it?
Reader 2: No, those are just the ones I could find in a 2 minute Google search. I’m pretty sure I missed some, like the many Indo-Pakistani conflicts, the Cambodian Revolution, or the Troubles in Ireland.
Reader 1: Well, they all happened a long way from here.
Reader 2: Only if you forget about the New Zealand Land Wars of the 19th Century, or unrest in the Solomon’s, Fiji or East Timor in more recent times.
Reader 1: Well at least we can be thankful for the many advances in science and technology. Think of all the things like radio, satellite communication and air travel. There’s quite a lot to be thankful for.
Reader 2: I suppose. Do you know the inventor of the machine gun believed it would end wars altogether, that it was a ‘peace-producing, peace-retaining’ invention. In reality it was just the first in a series of technological advances in the art of killing people. The atomic bomb in World War Two, Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. And now drones can do the killing for us from the comfort of an armchair. We have never been more enthusiastic to invent new things than in the name of war. Perhaps we should say ‘sorry’ for that too.
Reader 1: But think of the cost to civilian lives if people hadn’t fought for freedom.
Reader 2: Yes, good point. But several thousand people died in the NZ wars, most of them Maori, and they certainly weren’t all soldiers. Then the first World War saw 10 million soldiers die, and 7 million civilians. But of the 60 million deaths caused by World War Two, 50 million of them were civilians.
Reader 1: (Hesitantly) But there could have been…..more?
Reader 2: Yes, and there were. The wars didn’t finish remember. In fact there were even wars that specifically targeted civilian populations; like the Armenian Genocide and the Rwandan Genocide.
Reader 1: (Shocked) Oh, how awful…. But what of the advances in medicine? We know much more about fighting off death and keeping people alive now because of wars.
Reader 2: You’re right. In fact, field hospitals in World War One got so effective at treating bullet and shrapnels wounds that men were returning to the front in a few days from wounds that would have previously had them out of action for weeks or months. They got so good at it, that they were healing the body much quicker than the wounds soldiers had in their minds. Soldiers were returned to the front still bewildered from shell shock, a wound that would stay with them the rest of their lives, however long or short that was.
Reader 1: Oh.
Reader 2: Yes. Oh.
Reader 1: Are you really saying there’s nothing we can be thankful for about war?
Reader 2: To be honest I don’t know. But I think there’s a lot to say ‘sorry’ for before we even have to worry about saying ‘thanks’.
Reader 1: But….I don’t really know where to start….
Reader 2: Let me try.
We are sorry that there are so many wars, both in our past and in our present. Help the future to be different.
We are sorry there are so many people who think that war is a good idea. Please change their minds.
We are sorry that we don’t seem to learn from our mistakes, but keep finding ways to make them bigger and more painful. Can you show us a different way?
We are sorry that in our eagerness to remember the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought, we often sanctify the whole awful thing. Help us to tell the truth.
In your forgiveness, grant us new eyes to see our enemies as people made in Your image.
In your forgiveness, grant us renewed imaginations to find constructive ways to resolve our conflicts.
In your forgiveness, grant us healed hearts that are not so vulnerable to fear, but which hold out hope for Your renewing of all things, of all people, the wiping of every tear from every face.
Reader 1: Amen.
Here’s a song you might like to use to facilitate a time of reflection. Its based on John 6, called ‘Where else can we go?’
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