‘Lives Remembered’ at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, encourages tributes to all affected by conflict
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, has created a space where both the people of Ireland and international visitors can come to remember those whose lives have been affected by conflict throughout the world.
The ‘Lives Remembered’ exhibition was officially opened on 28th July – the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war by Austria-Hungary on Serbia – by the Irish author, Jennifer Johnston.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of Ms Johnston’s book, How Many Miles to Babylon?, the complex tale of the effects of World War I on two men who had been friends since childhood in Ireland.
CENTENARY OF THE OUTBREAK OF WORLD WAR I
On 28th June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. It was a most volatile area, following the Balkan Wars of 1912-13 and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire. The assassination of 28th June was an attempt to disengage the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the region, but the deadly attack, as we all know, swiftly brought about the immense tragedy that was the First World War.
One month after the Archduke and his wife were assassinated, on 28th July, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. On 1st August, Germany declared war on Russia. On 3rd August, Germany also declared war on France. On the same day, the United Kingdom started to mobilise, leading to the arrival of the British Expeditionary Force in France on 7th August.
It was swift, indeed, but in the years before 1914, there had been a sense of foreboding in Europe. It has been suggested that, paradoxically, the wider suffrage which gave people an increased stake in – and, therefore, pride in – their own countries led to a rising nationalism which in turn led to a situation in which national interests, and pride, began to compete at a very popular and quite emotional level.
Following the industrial revolution, the increasing wealth of the western nations led to a growing armaments industry. Germany – which, at the turn of the century, already possessed possibly the most formidable army in the world – went on to expand its navy to rival the sea power of Britain. In response, in 1906, Britain launched the Dreadnought, the heaviest armed battleship of its time, but Germany only responded further by building warships of similar capacity. There was a veritable arms race.
The horrors of World War I have been well documented, especially in this centenary year, and the conflict really shook faith in both God and humanity. In particular, the years following World War I saw a growing ‘disconnect’ between working people and the Establishment, including the Church. Something so terrible had happened that an old social order had completely broken down.
In 1914, the Archbishop of Uppsala, Nathan Söderblom, had tried to galvanise Church leaders internationally in witnessing for peace. As an archbishop in a neutral country, he had felt keenly that this was his role, but a declaration which he drew up did not gain many signatories, not least because Church leaders found it difficult to detach themselves from their respective countries’ positions.
War causes immense suffering and it always creates deep dilemmas for Christian people. The Church will continue to wrestle with these issues, but will also surely continue to pray, in the words of Lewis Hensley’s beautiful hymn, Your kingdom come, O God; your rule, O Christ, begin. We do long for “ … the promised time, the end of strife and war”. (Brian Walker, ‘World War One – A Church of Ireland reflection’, page 8)
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World War One – A Church of Ireland reflection By Brian M. Walker
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