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Lockerbie, War and Remembrance 2011

November 12, 2011

A few weeks ago I went travelling. Travelling for work but also on holiday – travelling around to see family and friends.

Gus, my brother in law, is a native of Lockerbie. So when we visited he took us to the memorial to the disaster. It was the first time that I had been and I was deeply moved.

First by the stone with all the names on; like a war memorial from a conflict far more recent than the second world war but already fading from many peoples minds.

Then Gus told the stories of the people of Lockerbie that had changed because of that night in 1988 when Pan Am flight 103 was blown out of the sky. Gus remembers hearing a strange whirring sound, going outside and seeing one of the jet engines spinning across the town.

He told me of a little lad that had been out cycling with his friend. His bike broke, he took it home for his Dad (a school friend of Gus’) to fix. The boy was sent by his Dad over to a friend’s for a spanner. By the time he came back his house and family were gone, vapourised by the impact. Just a crater where they had been. There were many more stories, people lost that night, grieving families and suicides.

It felt as though I knew the people – the names on the stone. But I didn’t know them and the names are leaching steadily from my mind.

Sadly, the steady trickle of names of the soldiers being killed in Afghanistan is received with a moments sadness then we move on. We see the picture of a young lad, smiling and happy, or a husband with smiling wife and children, and we are hit a little harder. But again it soon passes.

That is why it is important to have days of remembrance like today and Friday, why strangers in supermarkets should should stop and silently remember together. Why footballers should wear poppies.

That is why for me hearing Gus’ personal account of the Lockerbie attack was so important. It was hearing the stories of real people, known by a member of my family, that made the horror real.

We may not be suffering the horrors of all out war but the armed forces, their families and friends, and the nation as a whole, continue to pay the price of war. War in Afghanistan where my own grandfather fought, in a mostly forgotten war, many years ago.

We remember and we are moved, perhaps moved to tears. …….. And then we need to find hope. Hope for ourselves and hope for our neighbours and friends.

To find hope we need first to escape the cycle of hate that feeds violence and war. Here we are told to put on “the breastplate (flack jacket, or body armour) of faith and love”.

Put on faith and love.

Our faith in a God who cares for us, can protect us from turning away from him to hatred and vengeance. But it is love that really breaks the spell.

Our human love allows us to feel the pain when we see the pictures and hear the stories of those who have been killed.

But it is our share of divine love that allows us to remember that sons and daughters are killed on both sides. Both sides believe they are right and are brave enough to risk their lives for what they know to be right.

I remember, at the height of the cold war with the very real threat of war with Russia, my Dad telling me about a friend of his who had been rescued by the Russians during the Second World War and fought with them for years. That man could not praise his Russian comrades too much, they were good and brave, and they were now his deadly enemy.


It is then that tears really fall. War means that you kill or be killed. Violence is just a reality of life. But it is in loving that we know their can be a better way. ……..

For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. (1Thessalonians 5:9-10)

We are to work for that better way. We are to fight for that better way.

We are soldiers in a war against hatred. A war against all that separates people into warring factions. A war against all that separates from the reality of God’s love.

And like solders we watch out for each other. We watch each others back. Together we keep up our moral so we can fight more effectively. So finally, this Remembrance Sunday…..

…….. encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. (1Thessalonians 5:11)

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