C. of I. collaborates with East Belfast local historians in World War I film
“A POSITIVE, collective contribution at this poignant time of remembrance and a successful collaboration between various parts of the Church of Ireland and with the wider community in East Belfast”, is how Dr Susan Hood, Assistant Librarian and Archivist at the Representative Church Body Library, describes a specially commissioned short film documentary, The Boys from East Belfast.
The film focuses on the discovery of letters written by ten soldiers who served at the Western Front during the First World War and who were also parishioners of the parish of Dundela, Diocese of Down.
Fittingly, the film piece is to be given its first screening in the evocative and striking setting of St Mark’s church, Dundela, on Monday 10th November, at 6.00pm – an event open to all.
Remembrance-tide this year will have a special focus on the centenary of the commencement of the First World War but, as ever, it will be a time to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and in later conflicts, not least in Northern Ireland.
Commenting earlier this year to RTÉ, Conor Mulvagh, of the School of History and Archives at University College Dublin, noted that even historians still cannot agree on how World War I actually began. While broadly agreeing on what factors were involved, he indicated that “ascribing relative importance to a myriad of long-term and more immediate causal factors has kept academics, veterans and politicians writing and talking for an entire century”.
As we noted in our 1st August editorial, marking the centenary of the actual outbreak of the Great War, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, were assassinated in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, on 28th June 1914 as an attempt to disengage the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the region, but the whole historical scenario is indeed complex. The factors that led from that assassination to full-scale war are not capable of being neatly summarised.
Remembrance-tide is, however, not primarily a time for details of historical anaylsis but is more a time of prayerful regard for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, as well as a time for reflecting on just what war means. Nowadays there are so many ‘war games’ available for young people’s supposed entertainment. However, war is never a game and young people should never, ever be encouraged to think of it in that way. It is a terrifying and deadly exercise, causing immense physical and mental suffering, hardship and bereavement. As well as loss and injury among combatants, there is also untold loss and injury among ordinary people who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Economies are destroyed and consequently livelihoods are lost. Poverty is, indeed, yet another consequence of battle.
Yet, the free world does need to be able to defend its freedom and needs to be able to do so militarily as a last resort. The free world also rightly comes to the aid of peoples suffering brutal oppression. We all would surely prefer to live in a world without confrontation or war, but evil forces do exist and they need to be confronted. The use of military force is a solemn decision but when military personnel are engaged in the defence of freedom and of the innocent, and when they give their lives for that cause, we rightly remember them before God.
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