Conflict and war are looked at by Jaki Miles-Windmill is this assembly taking an objective look at human behaviour in our attitudes towards them, with particular reference to war in Afghanistan

Resources

You will need two readers.

Engagement

Leader: British soldiers have been in Afghanistan since 2001. On 3rd June this year, the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, said:

Reader 1: ‘They gave their lives securing freedom and stability, not just for the people of Afghanistan but, as the tragic events of 9/11 showed, for all of us. We will never forget them.’

Reader 2: Mr Browne said these words while he was expressing his respect and sympathy for the 98th, 99th and 100th soldiers who died that week while on duty in Afghanistan.

Leader: The three men, from the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, were on a routine foot patrol in Helmund Province when they became the victims of a suicide attack from the Taliban. This brought the number of British military casualties to 100. Mr Browne went on to express gratitude on behalf of the government and the whole country for their ‘courage and their sacrifice for their country’.

The fact that the number of those British people killed in Afghanistan has reached the number 100 seems to have struck a chord in everyone because it marks a significant milestone in the conflict. Some of you may have personal knowledge about people who are directly involved in the conflict in either Afghanistan or Iraq. Most of us have some knowledge of the reasons why British troops are presently involved in both countries. In Iraq, almost double the number of those killed in Afghanistan have died.

Reflection

Despite the important reasons as to why Britain is involved in these two wars, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect as to why human beings − not only in Britain but also throughout the world − always seem to be involved in conflict of one sort or another.

Here are some facts:

Reader 1: In the previous century, World War One and World War Two were responsible for the deaths of up to 100 million people. A far greater proportion of these were civilians, as opposed to military personnel.

Reader 2: There have been many thousands of wars recorded since records began. It has been estimated that, on average, there has been one year of peace for every seven years of war.

Reader 1: At any one time, there is an average of 17 wars going on somewhere in the world.

Reader 2: Not all of these are major conflicts.

Leader: We all know what we mean by major conflicts but how big does a conflict have to be before it is considered to be major? Often, innocent people, including women and children, get killed in wars, both major and minor. Wars affect far more people than just those who are immediately caught up in the conflicts. The families of those killed are deeply affected and their lives change for ever. Often, people lose their homes, too − or they may have to uproot their families in order to get away from the fighting.

Many wars throughout history have been waged in the name of religion. It seems that almost everyone who initiates or takes part in a war feels that God is ‘on their side’. Given the fact that most religions follow doctrines that state clearly that violence is wrong, the truth is more likely to be that God might severely disapprove of anyone who takes part in one. And most people, too, would prefer it if we could live in a world where there were no wars.

It’s a good idea to reflect on our own feelings about conflict and war. Most of us are people who want nothing more than to be kind to others and to be able to live our lives in a peaceful way. However, it’s interesting how, as human beings, we find conflict exciting − even when it’s on a small scale and experienced in the safety of our own homes! For instance, most of our entertainment involves conflict of some sort − our films, video games and television. Lots of us find it exciting to watch programmes that contain violence, even if it’s on a comparatively small scale, in reality television shows − such as in the Big Brother House!

Woody Guthrie, a well-known American singer/songwriter and political activist of the 20th century, was asked to write his comments on World War Two for a newspaper, at the point where the Germans were making the first bombing raids on London − and Britain was bombing Berlin. He had a way of stating his beliefs simply but truthfully and wrote that he felt just as sorry for the innocent children in both cities, ending his article by saying:

Reader 1:After all, a kid’s a kid − and a bomb’s a bomb.’

Most people believe that war is unavoidable and a necessary, if sad, fact of life. Sometimes, becoming involved seems to be the only way to stop some groups of people from being unfair, aggressive and destructive to others. However, war of any kind is inevitably going to create victims. Human beings have proved themselves to be the most self-destructive species that live on the earth.

Response

So, is war inevitable − or could there possibly be other ways of coping with disagreements before they get out of control? (Pause) Religious dogma states clearly that all human beings are equal in the eyes of God. This is logical to everyone, whether or not they hold strong religious beliefs. However, sometimes it takes courage, self-control and a strong sense of respect for others, in order to deal with disagreements in ways that are not aggressive or violent.

Unfortunately, many countries now have nuclear weapons that have the potential to destroy the whole world if used. There are signs that perhaps we are now, as a species, becoming more aware of the possible consequences of our potential destructiveness and so, hopefully, this will never happen.

When asked what weapons he thought might be used if there was a World War Three, Albert Einstein, the great scientist, said:

Reader 1: ‘I know not with what weapons World War Three will be fought, but World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones.’

Prayer or meditation

Reader 1: Our hearts go out to all those people who have lost loved ones as a result of war. We hope that mankind will find ways of dealing with those who are behaving destructively, that are not destructive in themselves.

Reader 2: We hope that we will find ways of dealing with our own personal conflicts and differences of opinion that are fair, reasonable, respectful and kind.
(Amen)

This e-bulletin issue was first published in June 2008

About the author: Jaki Miles-Windmill

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