The First World War that started exactly one hundred years ago catches the imagination of a generation that sits light to history. Commemorations include a symbolic lights off at 11pm on Monday 4th August, the moment the British Government declared war in 1914. The Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey's comment, that 'the lights are going out all over Europe' is a somber reminder of the fragility of the peace, stability and prosperity we enjoy. A 'balance of power' and the economic and social interdependence that we have come to expect between nations can never be taken for granted.
Our thinking and praying can be gathered around two themes. The appalling experience of innocent civilians who suffer in their hundreds of thousands is intolerable and draws out many compassionate responses and actions. At another level we need to make an informed assessment of the realities of political and military decisions, not least in the vivid cases of chaotic civil and cross-border wars.
In all this there is a natural human instinct to take sides. Yet, Christians can make humble petition for an end to all violence. We will also recognise that evil must be confronted and that there are times when that involves diplomatic firmness and even force of arms.
Most of all we will respond to a renewed call to be agents of reconciliation in the name and power of Jesus Christ. That can start here at home as we get to know our neighbours who are caught up by family history and association with world-wide conflict areas. Rather than rush to judgement let us broaden our understanding and deepen our sympathies with those who suffer while insisting that the leaders of the nations act justly and seek mercy for all their peoples.
Bishop of Birmingham