Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Together in peace

Some of the world’s bravest individuals are together in my home town of Liverpool for the next few days as the World Firefighters’ Championships take place. It is a privilege to host the representatives of many lands, of many groups of individuals who risk their lives for the sake of others.

Any one of us does not need to think for too long in order to recall acts of incredible courage.

For my part, I can remember, as a small child, seeing a fireman swing down the outside of a ladder as a burning wall collapsed at the end of the road where I lived. Fortunately, he was unhurt, but that is not always the case. Fire can be a good friend, but it is also a deadly enemy. Nobody, even the most seasoned firefighter, can face a blaze without at least a faint tremor of fear. It is for that reason that, in any team, there is not only teamwork, but also an absolute trust that colleagues will give their own lives in order to preserve each other’s safety. As one man remarked, “I cannot go into a fire without knowing, in the back of my mind, that if I find myself in trouble, the others will do their best to save me.”

That sort of courage has nothing to do with nationality, colour, creed or gender.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo has been taking place, this year, representing the military of Scotland, Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, America, Singapore and Nepal in a magnificent extravaganza of brass bands, marching drill and dancing, with even the golden lion of Singapore dancing before a packed crowd of spectators, thanks to the island’s police band.

As the evening drew to a close and the last strains of the ‘Evening Hymn’ accompanied the nocturnal unfastening of the flags from their poles, a lone piper played a haunting tribute to all those who have given their lives in battle during, as, the commentator noted, “a century of war, sometimes marked by peace”.

In our lifetimes, we are unlikely never to need a fire brigade because fire will always be a part of our civilisation. Sadly, our military will sometimes be needed for duties other than marching and making music.

May God grant us peace. May he keep us safe. May he watch over, protect and bless those who work for the emergency services, who risk their lives in peacetime on our behalf. May he be with the military, that they might only be deployed in the cause of truth and justice, that no shot might ever be fired in anger and that human rights might never be abused.

God bless,
Sr Janet