CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Fatal split of prayer and action

HONG KONG (SE): As echoes of The Last Post wafted away on the gentle breeze, some 2,000 people observed a two-minute silence in remembrance of the fallen service men and women who died during World War I and World War II, as well as later conflicts, as they gathered around The Cenotaph in Central on November 13 to mark Remembrance Day Sunday.

The traditional Armistice Day is commemorated at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the hour, day and month a ceasefire on the Western Front was signed between the Allied Forces and Germany at Buckingham Palace in London.

As the Reveille called representatives from government and the judiciary, as well as veteran associations, consulates, community groups and schools, district councils and uniformed organisations to lay wreaths at The Cenotaph in memory those who died in warfare, the gathering was called to pray for peace in the world.

The Remembrance Prayer, led in Chinese by Willie Mok and English by Christopher Hammerbeck, from the Hong Kong Ex-Servicemen’s Association, recognised the sacrifice of both the old and the young who lost their lives in conflict, not to glorify war, but to remember and pray for peace.

Led by Father John Chynchen, from St. John’s Cathedral, Father Jim Mulroney from the Catholic Church led a prayer for peace followed by the Lord’s Prayer, as representatives from the Muslim, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Jewish and Confucian faiths led prayers for peace in their own traditions.

But in a strange contradiction, although millions of wreaths are laid at war memorials around the world each year in cities and towns, country villages and almost everyplace that has lost sons and daughters to the slaughter of the two world wars and later conflicts, few countries are not engaged in some conflict today.

Hong Kong is not unique in expressing a strong desire for peace nor in offering prayer for peace to God, expressing a common and strongly embedded community desire.

But despite this, old habits die hard and violence remains the default response of governments, opposition groups and repressed peoples in settling disputes, despite its repeated failure to find satisfactory solutions and the growing body of evidence favouring a peaceful, non-violent approach.

Australian peace advocate and Quaker, Peter Jones, challenges people to scrutinise the way they pray, pointing out that prayer cannot be separated from action, as praying for peace with the left hand, while putting trust in armaments with the right, creates a fatal split.

While charity may demand that the left hand should not know what the right is doing, Jones says prayer and action do not work that way. He maintains the only response to the ravages of war is the vigorous pursuit of peace.

Nevertheless, reflecting on the ceremony, Hammerbeck, who has commanded forces in Asian conflicts in the past, said he believes that what was said at the commemoration reflected strongly what the young men and women who die on the battlefield would like to say.

May they rest in peace.

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