Inspiration from the Spire | What to say?

What does one say? This week, I am wrestling to work out what on earth to say about war, death, sacrifice and peace.  Ahead of writing this column, on Thursday I was due to lead assembly for a large group of primary school children at an international school here in Copenhagen.

They come from every corner of the globe – many from countries that have recent memories of war. And then on Sunday, I was due to address the great and the good at the St AlbanÂ’s Church Remembrance Sunday Service, and go on to the Commonwealth War Cemetery for the laying of wreaths. Most of the graves have names, but some of the graves simply read: “Known only by God, age 19, age 20, age 21”. The same ages as my daughters.

The little red poppies us Brits wear this week, along with people from all over the Commonwealth, probably go largely unnoticed on the streets of Copenhagen, hidden under heavy coats and scarves as the cold evenings draw in. They were introduced 90 years ago by the Royal British Legion as a way of raising awareness and money to support the injured and bereaved and their families. We remember the end of the first World War (in 1918) at 11:00 on 11 November with two minutes of silence, and it being 2011 as well, we have a lot of elevens this year!

When Margaret Thatcher took Britain to war in the Falkland Islands almost 30 years ago, the son of a close friend of mine was seriously injured. When Lieutenant Robert Lawrence MC returned to the UK in a wheelchair, he was hidden from view by canvas screens at the airport. The real face of war was hidden from us – although his story became the award-winning BBC television film ‘Tumbledown’ starring Colin Firth.

This policy has changed, and now we get many news images of young men and women facing the uphill struggle of rehabilitation. We can only imagine what it is like on the battlefield, but engaging with the life-changing reality of peopleÂ’s lives is important. Remembering the sacrifice and human cost of war matters.

I recently met a Danish priest whose job has been to say the special prayers over the coffins as DenmarkÂ’s dead are flown back here from Afghanistan. The Danes have lost more men and women in Afghanistan per capita of the population than any other nation.

I do know what I need to say to the schoolchildren as they sit on the floor in front of me this week. The reality of war is terrible. War is not fun. War is not just history. Peace is more than just the absence of war, and needs us all. And that the world needs them to be peacemakers. And we need to start today.

ItÂ’s just how to say it?

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