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Where have all the flowers gone? - By Chris McDonnell


A personal reflection on July 30th by Chris McDonnell

The month of July is at an end. A hundred years ago, it was the final month of peace in Europe after a period of turbulence in the Balkans, culminating in the assassination in Sarajevo at the end of June 1914.  All efforts to maintain a peace came to nothing as the European nations gathered their armies for conflict. And so the  Great War began, a violation of the peace that in the words of the poet, Wilfred Owen,

"slew the seed of Europe one by one". 

As we commemorate  that First World War, our times too are increasingly troubled and the pain of aggression abounds. Words and more words follow loss of life, anger gives  rise to calls for retribution and with each step our safety is reduced.

The cost of the struggle in Gaza will extend beyond the narrowed confines of that crowded strip of land as the number of lives lost increases day by day and the hospitals can hardly cope with the injuries caused by the use of modern weapons within the confines of the city. 

In Eastern Europe, the shock of the total loss of a civilian aircraft brought down by missile fire reverberates between East and West, blame and counter blame abound and our memory is stirred again of the time we once called the Cold War. The image of the long line of funeral cars, nose to tail on the Dutch highway driving away from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam graphically illustrated the enormity of the cost as the victims were brought home.

After the years of occupation following the fighting in Iraq, the recent take-over of the North of that ravaged country by an extremist group, has led to the expulsion from Mosul of its ancient Christian Community, with its association with Nineveh and the Old Testament story of Jonah part of its history. Not only have the Christians left under threat, fearful for their lives, but for many Muslims still in the city, the imposition of harsh Islamic rule is being forced upon them, with women in particular suffering the discrimination that it involves. They all deserve our love and prayers.

So, where have all the flowers gone? The cycle of events related by the lyrics of Pete Seeger in the 60s continues to turn and his concluding words come back to haunt us

"When will we ever learn. when will we ever learn?

Here is a link to that fine song, sung by Seeger.

The words of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz remind us all of the  transitory nature of our words.

"I was to be redeemed by the gift of amazing words
 but must be prepared for an earth without grammar"    

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