This is a different kind of Memorial Day for me this year. For today, instead of commemorating the death of American soldiers who died in battle – a very humbling thought in itself and something for which I am deeply respectful! – I want to deliberately remember the civilians of all nations who have died due to war.
The memorial I have in mind is not wrapped beautifully in red, white, and blue – or the colors of any other nation’s flag – but, is draped only in the blackness of grief and death. It is not limited by boundaries established by men and their choices, but is limited only by the extent of humanity. It is not to glory in any one people’s way, but to glory in the Lord’s way alone.
A legion of memorials and monuments are to be found across the globe commemorating the death of soldiers from every nation. But where are the monuments, the days, the parades, etc. in remembrance of the civilians who died? They are not nearly so prevalent or prominent, are they? One can only wonder why. After all, civilian deaths typically far outnumber military deaths in any war.
Read that last sentence again and let the cold hard fact of it all soak deep into your spirit.
Take World War II as an example. Estimates of the total number of deaths in all countries affected by that war alone typically range somewhere between 60-80 million. How many of those were military personnel? 22-25 million. A horrific sum! And how many were the number of civilians who died? 38-55 million. Horror x 2. They were old men and women. They were infants and small children. They were the handicapped and the vulnerable. They were the marginalized and the forgotten.
They were victims of disease, dislocation, and deprivation. They experienced rape, torture, and ethnic cleansing/genocide. They succumbed to abandonment, imprisonment, and starvation. They were stripped of dignity, dehumanized, and altogether undone. Their deaths were accidental and deliberate, intentional and collateral, contrived and common. But all of them had this one thing in common: their deaths need not have been.
Truly, war is hell. But it is hell for all involved. May we never forget such or give such only passing remembrance. And so let us make all the more effort to remember quite clearly and more often that the greatest price paid in war is paid by those who never take up arms.
Pray with me, won’t you?
Father God, we long for the time when all wars will cease. Help our hatred for such be like your hatred of it. May we be so caught up in such that our distinctiveness to the ways of this world are obvious to all. And so, grow in us now such a spirit of peace that we run not to make war, but peace. To the end that the evil might have time to repent and so that all the more innocent might be spared. And so we ask: bring in your kingdom. Bring it in through us and bring it in now. In the name of the Prince of peace we pray. Amen.