Vale of TearsLest we forget
Lest we forget
The response to Schindler’s List is proof that the most offensive word in any language is “forget.”
What grief leaders cause when they manipulate circumstances in order to further their own purposes, whilst doing all they can to conceal their actions and intentions. How can we not grieve when the western world shows itself willing to rouse itself whenever there is a serious threat to its standard of living, but is prepared to turn a blind eye to almost anything else?
Jewish survivors of the Holocaust deliberately did all they could to keep the memories of family members and role models alive.18 This determination not to hide from the stark realities of atrocities that had been committed contrasts with the Japanese, who have been far less forthcoming when it comes to acknowledging the magnitude of their war crimes.
Linked as this is to the crucial need not to lose face, this long tradition of playing matters down culminated in the Emperor of Japan making perhaps the greatest understatements of all time when he announced his nation’s surrender at the end of the Second World War, declaring that the war had developed along lines “not necessarily to Japan’s advantage.”19
Echoes of such attitudes continue to this day to be an impediment to people coming through to maturity in Christ. Much concerted prayer is still required for the spiritual soil in Japan to be conducive – first for people to receive the Gospel, and then to develop as wholehearted disciples.
Throughout recorded history, governments have responded to dwindling popularity and prosperity by offloading the blame for their failings on convenient scapegoats.20 Just as Nazi Germany followed Russia in launching devastating pogroms against the Jewish people, so the powers of darkness excel at stirring up at hatred between nation states, and between different tribes and sectors within nations.
Forgetting that nothing we do passes unseen in Heaven, governing powers that heed neither internal morality nor external checks all too frequently end up oppressing the innocent. “A single death is a tragedy” Joseph Stalin once cynically declared, “but a million deaths is just a statistic.”
Three nations that come immediately to mind in this context are Myanmar (Burma), where the military continue the horrendous ethnic cleansing of the Karen and other minority tribes, North Korea, where believers are suffering more acutely than in any other country in the world, and the Congo, where more than four million people have lost their lives as a result of the civil war21.
In the whole realm of intercession there can be no substitute to being led by the Spirit when it comes to knowing how to respond to events of such immense cruelty and magnitude. In Healing America’s Wounds, John Dawson provides powerful Biblical insights, and testimonies from around the world of how God’s people are addressing the root causes of hatred between estranged peoples and groups, and bringing about healing and reconciliation.22
Reflect and Pray
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless. Psalm 10:12
Survivors of genocidal episodes have to cope not only with the immensely complicated fallout from these atrocities, but also with the psychological challenge of adjusting to a world bereft of familiar friends and landmarks. As one survivor put it, “our most urgent need is to find ways to survive survival.”
Why not take this thought and turn it into prayer for all who suddenly find themselves on their own, or in radically altered circumstances?
As we direct our gaze wider, and cry out to God to intervene on behalf of the grieving, remember the tribes in Myanmar (Burma), the child victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and the millions of African children who find themselves obliged to raise young siblings as the result of their parents dying of AIDS.
17 Time Magazine. 14/3/94
18 By contrast, Dan Bar-on has noted an almost desperate eagerness among many second and third generation descendants of Nazi concentration camp guards to “move on from the past, by deliberately not referring to it.” Bar-on, D. (1995) Fear and Hope. Havard University Press. Cambridge. By contrast, a considerable amount of nostalgia can be found these days in the former East Germany for the highly repressive D.D.R. – perhaps because the regime appeared to offer people a “simpler” structure for their lives than today’s more complex free for all.
19 Max Hastings has written extensively on this subject. In Okanaura, for example, civilians were told to take their own lives rather than fall into the hands of the American invaders. As recently as in 2007, all references to the thousands of suicides that followed the giving of this instruction were removed from text books.
20 See Staub, E. (1989) The Roots of Evil: The Origins of Genocide and other Group Violence. Cambridge University Press.
22 Dawson, J. Healing America’s Wounds. (1995) Regal Books.