Monday, 2 February 2009

Forgotten wars

Amidst the technobabble of a million TV channels (which seem to be showing mainly short programmes pitched to get you to buy things) there are a number of wars going on out in our beautiful and fractured world.

Probably no where more poignant is the current set of fighting - touted as an end-game by the government - in northern Sri Lanka. Serendip - that magical island - has long since bled with at least 2 generations now having grown up with the poisonous struggle between Tamil seperatists and Sinhalese chauvinists (sweeping up everyone else in the debris).

We pay a bit of attention to the unfolding government army surge because in the end they are looking for Prabhakaran - the man who brought the modern suicide bomb into being. I would imagine that within this month the papers will be showing his body. It seems unlikely that he will be taken alive. Or does it? How much of what we 'know' fits the ground reality. Would it not make sense for a leader of a long-drawn out struggle - financed largely by Sri Lankan Tamils living abroad - to project the sense of heroic struggle that he demands from 'his' fighters?

Our leader of the unipolar world continues to maintain heavily armed robo-cops in Iraq and Afghanistan, while large swaths of NW Pakistan are further under the rule of those who used to rule Afghanistan. Amazingly, the US is attacking their enemies in Pakistani territory. Unthinkable a few years ago. But here it is going on quietly (at least relatively quietly - amid the din of 'buy-this, spend-on-that').

In our own beautiful and often perplexing country of India we face many forgotten wars. The other day 15 policemen were killed by ultra-maoists. Many Christians continue to hunker in relief camps in Orissa. Most of those who returned home bowed to the demand to 'reconvert' (that is what you called forced conversion) while others who left are settling in the cities to avoid going back. Our border states in the North East are home to long-standing insurgencies - and spill overs from the struggles of tribal peoples in Burma as well. When the bullets flew in Mumbai - the unstated fear was real: will there be a back-lash against the Muslim community? Will rioting break out? By God's grace we were spared that episode, but newer ones are always lurking just beneath the surface.

For a war to be forgotten you need to distance yourself. Physical distance (being a long way away helps somewhat), and even more importantly mental shuttering off is what most of us do.

After all, how much can we process? At what point do we lose any sense of normalcy amidst all the terrible things that very much do take place around us?

There are no simple answers (if there were, they would have been implemented long ago), but one important thing is true. Our view of the future colours our present.

If this is all there is, well then we live in a pretty crummy world.

But if we are on the cusp of something far deeper and better and realler than we have experienced so far, well then there is something that we can work towards.

The Bible teaches us that our Lord Jesus is due to return - and that all wars will cease. They will stop. End. Terminate. It boggles the mind. We are so war-stained that we can't even imagine it fully.

I ain't gonna study war no more... goes the doggerel. Well, here's the secret. There is a lot more truth in some of the simplest things we say than most of us want to admit (esp. because it deflates our sense of self-worth).

One of the reasons war is so horrible - is that we are not made to fight. The terrors of conflict point to something beyond us - an inner and irresistable understanding that we are really made for Shalom in all the luxuriant goodness of the word - in all the sparse vitality of our necessary peace.

The yearning is there. And it will be fulfilled. Soon. In the twinkling of an eye, the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised, and we shall be changed....

Our forgotten wars - will be - have to be - trully, fully, completely (and blessedly) forgotten. But only when the true king Jesus takes His rightful place.

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