Thousands gathered in Worcester on Remembrance Sunday to mark the exact centenary of the Armistice at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. I have to confess that I was absent. Not I hasten to add, because I was nervous of the weather, like the President of the United States. It was because I had been invited to take part in the remembrance of the Armistice in Germany. The Diocese of Worcester has a partnership with the protestant Church in central Germany, and a particular link with Magdeburg Cathedral. The Dean of Magdeburg kindly asked me if I would preach at their Remembrance Sunday service. I thought it was so significant that a German cathedral should wish to have someone from this country to speak to them, that I felt it was my duty to accept.

The first writer to reflect on the effects of war in both Britain and Germany was the Roman historian Tacitus. He tells us that one of the British chieftains, defeated by the Romans, said that the Romans ‘made a desolation and they called it peace’. I suggested in my sermon that the peace that followed the First World War was like that. It was a ‘desolation’ in which, especially in Germany, national humiliation and despair provided a ready context for the rise of Hitler. In my sermon in Magdeburg, I contrasted that sort of ‘peace’ with what the word ‘peace’ means in the Bible. In the Bible, peace is always positive. It means the well-being and health and harmony of the community.

I also said that whatever this country decides to do in the next few weeks and months about its relationship to continental Europe, there will be all the more need for all people of goodwill to stand up for the ideals of international friendship and co-operation. 

This piece was originally written for the Worcester News.