Remembering to do better

This article was broadcast as a Thought for the Day on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday 27thJuly 2016 and is adapted and used with permission. On Tuesday in Rouen in France the community gathered to remember an 84-year-old priest murdered earlier that day in an atrocious act of murder carried out it seems because he was a Christian. The Rouen community is one in a long list of communities who have gathered to remember over these last months – Nice, Munich, Orlando, Kabul to name but a few. A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend an event remembering what happened in Srebrenica in 1995. It was a sober remembering. During the Balkans War Srebrenica was declared a United Nations Safe Area. In July 1995 General Ratko Mladic and his armed forces disregarded the declaration of safety, invaded the town and systematically killed 8000 men and boys who were then buried in mass graves. Thousands of women, young and old, were forcibly deported and many of them raped. All because they were Muslim. It was by some collision of circumstance that I lifted a book just the night before the commemoration for Srebrenica. The book contains the record of a journalist’s observations as the war in Syria began. I did not expect the book’s introduction to focus on the Balkans war, a subject the writer describes as having become ‘a terrible fever’ for him as he worked on the seemingly intractable task of tracing war criminals like Mladic. His anger is palpable as he writes about those who visited terror on others, going free for so long while victims drop their eyes to the ground as if they had done something to be ashamed of. One can only imagine the grief and trauma; the bodies tenderly raised from the ground with gentleness to counter the terror that had put them there - then examined, and laid properly to rest. Rwanda, Nigeria, North America, the Shoah, the West Bank, South Sudan, Northern Ireland and on and on we continue to remember. We remember to honour the dead, as we await justice and in the hope that it will never happen again. As I remembered Srebrenica it occurred to me that we also persist in remembering because we believe we can do better than this horror. We not only can, we must. Those of us who are Christian remember a broken body, given up freely for us. It is not for us to break the bodies of others but to remember, to believe and to do better. Lesley Carroll. Rev Dr Lesley Carroll is a Presbyterian Minister. Previously she was a member of the Forum for Victims and Survivors and Consultative group on dealing with the past.
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4 Responses to Remembering to do better

  1. Puran Agrawal says:

    Response to “Remembering to do better”
    American philosopher Santayana reamrked that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Bible is full of exhortations to remember the past, especially landmark historical events. Joshua 24: 1.23 contains a very memorable reminder. In this passage Joshua, under the guidance of the Spirit of God, reminds the Israelites how they came to be the chosen people of God and, in the light of all that God has done for them to date, their obligation to “fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness.” But the exhortation does not stop there. It goes on to warn them of the consequences of the failure to obey and serve the Lord: “He is a holy God, he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebelion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you.”
    We live in a moral universe and that means what we will reap what we will sow. All of our actions will bear fruits accordingly, sooner or later. This is the lesson the Israelites had to learn in the hard way and painfully in the course of their history, following their entry into the promised land. The Christians remember the past not only to aviod repeating their errors and mistakes but also to remember and give thanks for the good things God has done for them.The eucharist reminds them of the most valuable blessing Lord Jesus has bestowed on them.
    Yet the tragedy is that most human beings have the tendency to draw the wrong lessons from the past events, as contemporary history of Northern Ireland, the Palestine, Rowanda, the formmer Yougoslavia and the current events in the middle east illustrate. In a nutshell, we love to remember the wrongs done to us and completely ignore the wrongs done by us to others. I have a great difficulty in sharing Rev. Dr. Lesley Carroll’s optimism that “we “persist in remembering because we believe we can do better than this horror!” Yet belive we must and keep remembering and praying because we are told that it is God’s world and he can change the world in any way he deems fit.

    Puran Agrawal

  2. Laurie Randall says:

    This is a thoughtful touching on to an experience of sadness and horror. I sometimes find myself flooded with despair at the pain we choose to inflict upon each other. In that context, I value the reminder that Jesus came to show us another way and to give us the grace to try to follow him.

    Thank you, Lesley

  3. Sean Dooley says:

    Thank you for calling me to reflect more deeply; and for giving me language in a time when I am struggling to find words to name my thoughts and feelings.
    Sean.

  4. norman hamilton says:

    A typically thoughtful contribution from Lesley.

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