Living Faith: Ode to a Danish hero
Revd Smitha Prasadam

November 11th, 2018

This article is more than 5 years old.

Dinesen’s sister Karen Blixen lived ‘out of Africa’, and he’ll look out of Churchillparken (photo: Hasse Ferrold)

As Thomas Dinesen’s bust was unveiled, I stood in admiration of the humanity and heroism that led to his Victoria Cross award.

Peace always possible
A moving tribute from his grandson showed the whole person: how a young man, just 26, ran out alone five times in one night to put enemy guns out of action.  I was privileged to stand together with Queen Magrethe, the British, Canadian and French ambassadors, members of the Black Watch in whose regiment he served, war veterans and civilians to honour the life of this distinguished Dane outside St Alban’s Church in Churchillparken.

Two days later, on the global stage Oscar Romero was canonised for his refusal to be silenced in condemning the murder and torture, poverty and injustice inflicted on his beloved El Salvador by its ruling regime.

Their examples remind us that every nation bears the scars of hatred, but in each blooms the possibility for reconciliation and peace.  We need to exorcise cruelty and extol the holy if we are to live a hopeful future.  No country is exempt.

Honouring their sacrifice
At St Alban’s Church on Sunday November 11 at 10:30, in the year that marks the centenary of the end of World War I, we will give thanks to God for all who sacrificed their lives for us.  We will honour their bravery and selflessness in the service of humanity and the eternal quest for peace.

WWI is a byword for disproportionate military slaughter. Lest we forget that in the ‘war to end all wars’ help came from the whole British Empire.  We will remember Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Muslims standing shoulder to shoulder with Christians and people of no faith in a common cause for peace. The British effort was the effort of the Commonwealth.

Our collective conscience and memory recalls these stories in a country where the ‘Danish Scheme’ helped the repatriation of thousands of British prisoners of war.  As we tell of those who fought for liberty, we will remember the impact on those left at home and pray for those caught in contemporary conficts.

We will cleanse the dust of ages to cool the angry heat of the bruises and scars we bear.  We will seek God’s forgiveness, which is total and irrevocable. Only in embracing that pattern, can we be liberated from the burden of the past and embrace a future of hope.  Imagination and emotion can help us on the path to a just society, radical grace and a peace that passes all understanding.

Advent soon upon us
“The lamps are going out all over Europe” are the words we remember better than the Biblical exhortation to be ready.  Readiness … preparedness … are not for the coming of the enemy but of God, and soon it will be time to swap the pumpkin lights for Advent candles counting down to the coming of God’s kingdom of justice, mercy and peace at Christmas.

God has intervened in our messy world – not with some celestial armed force but with the forces of human love. When so much today threatens, degrades and barters with human life as if men and women were merely statistical fodder, we celebrate that God chose to take on human life, investing it with a value it cannot find in itself, initiating a process of salvation whereby even the most inveterate warmonger might be transformed if he or she but glanced at the nakedness of God’s love and the magnitude of risk.

In the name of the Prince of Peace whose Advent we await, I bid you to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”.


Revd Smitha Prasadam

Born in India, adopted by Britain, Smitha (chaplain@st-albans.dk) is the new chaplain of St Alban’s Church. In the UK, along with being a Church of England priest, she travelled Europe working as an English teacher, trainer and examiner. Smitha continues to work in an advisory and advocacy capacity at a national level on matters of liturgy and social justice


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