This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 363 – June 12 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's  English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

D-day remembered

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There is nothing nice about war.  Nothing.  We’ve tried to beautify it.  Spruce it up.  Made films, games, computer simulations – but it is still brutal, horrific and unnatural.  Last year I was coerced into joining a group in a series of paintballing battles.  For the un-initiated, this is a game where teams fight each other with airguns that fire paint-balls over a one hundred meter range.  If the paint ball hits you and bursts, you are declared dead and have to leave that particular game.   Strategy and energy are the most important ingredients to success – but one of the games was just pure murder.  Hidden behind stacked oil cans the two teams had to advance over an open sandy area, reminiscent of the D-Day beaches.  When a whistle blew, you had to advance, there was no choice.  The last participant standing was the winner.   

It was a game.  But I stood there thinking, “This is horrific!”  We are playing with paintballs while those on the real D-day beaches fought for their lives and their country with real bullets and grenades.  Over 10 thousand people dead or injured.  A horrific total that we cannot bear to imagine – yet a small number in the total picture of the devastation of World War II.  Dreadful.  

Steven Spielberg was there on the Normandy beaches last Sunday, his shocking portrayal of the D-day landings in “Saving Private Ryan” still only a small taste of the real butchery of war.  I’m personally thankful that a film is about the nearest I’ve come to such horror – and yet I know, and have talked with many for whom war has been a present reality.  There are 70 in progress right now.  Sadly, neither of the two World Wars became the war to end all wars.  

So, 60 years on, is it still appropriate to remember those who died fighting for freedom from the Nazi tyranny?   I believe it is.  I believe it was an event so horrific that it is right to remember – not to glorify war – but to ponder on sacrifice and service.    It is also appropriate that heads of state from 17 countries joined in remembering those who lost their lives, and met with those veterans still alive.   

This will be the last of these celebrations.  The veterans are getting old.  So it is also appropriate that in this 60th anniversary hands were stretched out in efforts to close this sad chapter of 20th century history. 

Gerhard Schröder became the first German Chancellor to attend D-day celebrations – his countries flag flying alongside those of nations it fought so many years back.  

French president Chirac, in his speech highlighted the Franco-German relationship as one that demonstrated that “hate has no future, that a path to peace is always possible.”  

Positive words from beaches that were drenched in sunshine, rather than the blood of six decades past.   Schröder was right to say that “the post-war period is finally over.”  

More signs of coming together:  For the first time Russia , the forgotten ally, was invited to attend – signifying the real end of another war, the cold war.

And much of that is down to another man we remember this week, former US president, Ronald Reagan.  Age 93, he died this week and – in a BBC tribute, I heard former Soviet President Gorbachev pay tribute to a man who consciously decided that he did not want war with Russia.  They worked together towards détente.  As a result, the world today is a very different place.  

I wonder if, in today’s world, someone like Reagan would ever become president of the United States .  He had a poor childhood with an alcoholic father, uncertain college prospects, a failed marriage, an uncertain acting career, and the world of politics was not easy for him either, yet he was a continual optimist, even in his declining years suffering from Alzheimer’s.  And, according to Paul Kengor, author of “God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life,” that optimism came though an unfailing faith in God, and, so it seems, a life of prayer.  

I think Christians should be optimists. We should be looking for the good in each other, in every situation.  Seeing the glass half full rather than half empty.  Optimists help the world become a better place.  They have the courage to “turn the other cheek” because they believe the oppressor, the bully, can change.  On occasion, as on D-day, they have the courage to do what is right, even at the cost of their own lives – but for the good of others.  

Last week started a whole series of 60 year memorials that will come over the next year leading towards the end of the Second World War.  Memories, but also lessons for us to learn.  Today’s battles may be different.  The enemy more hidden.  But the need for optimism, prayer, and the courage to make and live with difficult decisions is still ours to take.

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