Archbishop’s Lament for Suffering for First World War


Speaking about our solemn duty and opportunity to reflect on the centenary of the First World War on BBC Radio York on Monday 4 August 2014, the Archbishop also will be praying for conflict resolution in Gaza. His interview follows in full:…

GEORGEY Spanswick BBC Radio York:  The Archbishop of York on the front of the Yorkshire Post this morning is quoted as saying ‘the anniversary a solemn duty and an opportunity to reflect, one hundred years later, on the folly of war and the horrific human suffering it unleashes’.  I am glad that the Archbishop joins me on the programme – what do you mean today is a solemn duty?


THE Archbishop of York:  Because we have a responsibility to one another. We need to remember those many many young people who were killed so senselessly.  I remember a harrowing lecture given by Professor Owen Chadwick about the First World War saying that a lot of able, enterprising, get-up and go- type of people were killed in huge numbers and Britain would take about hundred years to recover the talent that was so lost. There is a solemn duty for us to reflect and say to ourselves that war at the heart of it is futile. To respond to violence with violence increases darkness on a night already devoid of stars. We are just seeing this at the moment between Israel and the Gaza strip. You say to yourself: ‘What on earth is going on?’ I have always believed in the right of the State of Israel to exist and the right of the Palestinians for self-determination and their own State.  But if this carnage continues to go on, I don’t think actually that we are going to end seeing the creation of the two State solution: Israel and Palestine living in peace with each other.  So it is a solemn duty for us to reflect that this human suffering is unleashed in our world and it’s awful.


GEORGEY Spanswick BBC Radio York:  What will you be doing at the Minster today?


THE Archbishop of York:  I’ve already started my prayers earlier this morning as I’ll be travelling to London.  In the Minster, there will be reflection, at 8pm at St Michael-le Belfry an event to mark the centenary with music and reflection, and from 10pm to 11pm,  a Vigil (to be held at St Martin’s Coney Street).  People are trying to say to themselves that we thought,  at the end of the first world war this would end all wars, then the second world war would end all wars and we haven’t succeeded.  Remember that wonderful song of Seeger’s: ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ When will we ever learn?  Elgar wrote a wonderful cello concerto, particularly played by Jacqueline Du Pré, the music talks about the futility of war. As I remember the many people who gave their lives for this country and who wanted to work for peace one hundred years ago, they came from many parts of the world, my prayer will be to remember their suffering and also the actual suffering going on in Gaza today. I will be praying, like I did when I camped for 7 days in York Minster, when there was a war between Israel and Lebanon, to please to cease all this violence.  What resolves all our conflict in this world is by people speaking and talking, and seeing each other as human beings of infinite worth to God and to themselves.


GEORGEY Spanswick BBC Radio York:  Dr Sentamu, Thank you for joining us.


The Archbishop's quote as printed in the Yorkshire Post which Georgey Spanswick spoke about reads:

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu said, “The centenary of the outbreak of the First World War is both a solemn duty and an opportunity to reflect, one hundred years later, on the folly of war and the horrific human suffering it unleashes. Sadly our prayers will not just be those of distant remembrance – violent conflict is a brutal reality today.  We remember all before God, we pray for justice and peace, and we give thanks for the bravery and sacrifice of many.  ‘At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them’.” 


Churches across the country held services and events to mark the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War on Monday 4th August 1914.  Across the Diocese of York, churches remembered the war and the people whose lives it touched with vigils, services and exhibitions.