Making Peace with the Past

November 10, 2013

A YouTube video posted in 2010 tells the story of an American pilot who was shot down by a Romanian during WWII. They met again, 60 years later, in 2010. The video was shot in Romanian, so I don’t know what the General had to say, but this is what the American veteran said: “ At that time we were not really enemies – we didn’t know each other. But we were both fighting for a cause, which was our families, and our country, and our way of life….I’m delighted he was glad that he got the plane and not the pilot. Our goal is to bring peace and understanding throughout the world and I think that should be a goal for all of us, and one step toward that, is for General (…) and me to make our own friendship.”
You can find similar stories around the Internet: Walter Schuck of Germany was shot down by Joe Peterburs of Roseville during World War II. The two men reunited in 2000 in Germany and have become close friends. ( Joe says they are linked by their common experience as men of honour, and refers to Walter as a true gentleman.
It’s good to hear these kinds of stories, because they show us the way to end the cycle of violence that plagues our world. Too many people in this world feel that in order to honour those who have died in a conflict, they must continue that conflict. We see the results of this in places like Israel/Palestine, where the cycle of defensiveness and bitterness goes on and on – an ironic contrast to the Scripture reading for today. Yet most soldiers will tell you that they fight for peace and for justice – that war is a terrible but sometimes necessary way of bringing peace back into lands that are torn apart by strife and oppression. Any serviceman or woman I have ever met values peace, because he or she knows how much it costs. If soldiers on opposite sides of a conflict can find a way to become friends, then perhaps we will indeed see a day when machine guns are melted down and made into plows and shovels, when former enemies will rebuild their countries together, when nuclear war heads are disarmed and destroyed, when women and men and children can live in peace and unafraid.
In the meantime, we care for those who are scarred by conflict: veterans with physical injuries, broken relationships, broken bodies, PTSD – and we help them rebuild. We care for innocent victims of conflict through our involvement with peace organizations, the Compassionate Resource Warehouse, the Red Cross and the Mission and Service Fund; we seek to protect others from harm by deploying soldiers and police officers to areas where the innocent are being victimized; we get to know those different from us and learn to honour their culture and their way of life; we try all of our human ways to reduce violence and build up cooperation and harmony. We look at the conflicts, great and small, in our own lives, and seek reconciliation. We pray to God, who brings us peace beyond our understanding, and we make room in our hearts and in our lives, for God to bring peace. “Let there be peace on earth”, we sing – we pray! – “and let it begin with me!”

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