Often I find myself marvelling at the ability of humanity to find ways to insult and upset one another, often excessively. That, after all, is the meaning of the phrase: “rubbing their face in it”.
As I was thinking about it now being 101 years since the signing of the Armistice agreement, I was drawn to one of those little known facts that are all about rubbing someone’s face in it.
The original Armistice Agreement, for all its faults (and it was meant to be punitive), was signed in the Forest of Compiegne in a railway carriage belonging to Ferdinand Foch, one of the signatories.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler used the same carriage, in the same spot, to have France sign their surrender to Germany, and Hitler deliberately sat in the same seat that Foch used. This carriage was then paraded throughout Germany.
This makes me shudder with horror. Such a symbolic action could only have been a deliberate belittling and insulting of the French, and, by extension, the Allies.
Hitler’s action is a reminder of why we need Remembrance Sunday. A time to pause and to reflect on the savagery and ruthlessness of humanity. A time to give thanks for those who have died, and for those who still serve and die. But, also, a time to reflect on Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies. To pray for them. To forgive them.
This is not easy, and I say this as someone who grew-up in the Troubles. The desire for vengeance is always strong, but only leads to a cycle of violence.
May we never forget the sacrifices of our armed forces, but may we also remember to pray for our enemies and forgive.