Beauty and the Beast
Mothers’ day, Australia 2021. I am sitting on our veranda enjoying a coffee with beautiful music as a back drop. The sun is shining and the golden leaves are carpeting the green lawn.
Then the radio news comes on. Fifty eight young school girls have been murdered in Afghanistan.
First thought is a prayer, the memorare. Then the prayer for the dead that my dad told me so long ago to say every time I pass a cemetery. What else can I do?
I was sent to Vietnam in 1967 to fly helicopters. My personal result from that is PTSD. Did I do any good? We had a village in our area of responsibility. The people had fled there from the north so they could continue to practice their Catholic faith. Where are they now? Although all communist I understand Vietnam is a reasonable country now, but at what cost in lives – dead, maimed and displaced?
Now the latest war to end all wars: Afghanistan. While we pull out to leave the people of Afghanistan to the atrocities committed by those full of cowardly, unreasoned hatred, I hear the rattle of modern sabres from countries like China, Russia, Myanmar and the Middle East.
Just a short pause to catch my breath and enjoy a beautiful moment as a flock of little birds fly over, chatting to each other. The sound I hope those children will hear as they draw near to God. Will their parents one day also hear such beauty again?
Should Australia have ever been in Vietnam, Afghanistan or indeed in any war? To me this question raises more questions; who is our neighbour and where is ‘home’?
I had an aunt who was a member of the Carmelite third order. In a nursing home 300 kilometres from us she used to admonish me by saying that charity begins at home and I should visit much more often. She was unaware of the time I had to take off work and my family obligations so I could visit her. In any case, isn’t home where the heart is? After all, a house is just a house until people make it a home.
And that opens neighbours and home to a much bigger picture. I have a great love of reading ancient history, but the story always seems to end the same. A king invades, that dynasty collapses while the local people are raped, murder or sold off into slavery. Babylon, perhaps the greatest city of its time, ruled by Nebuchadnezzar II, invaded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC but is now only a few ruins. Is that the fate for the people and country of Afghanistan?
Two thoughts for all of us. Everyone is our neighbour. When we contemplate the vast numbers of displaced people from Adam and Eve to today, very often their home is far from the home of their birth. We should pray for them every day and give thanks in those prayers for our own home. Much harder, though, is to get our politicians to say: ‘We are off to war to help our neighbours and will not stop until our friends are safe’. Or they could say: ‘No, we will not be involved’.
What do you think?