This months edition is provided by Colin Ferguson
A lot of my thinking this time has come from watching the 75th Anniversary remembrance of the D Day landings. No I wasn’t there, but as a child I knew about what was happening, (no television in those days, even the radio was a bit ropy). In the village everyone worked together especially during the harvest. Being only seven was no excuse. That was when I met the Germans, Richard in particular. He drove the lorry round collecting the potatoes that we picked. He would stop from time to time to help those who were struggling to finish their ‘bit’.
Richard was eighteen. He had been fifteen when an army officer had come to his school and told them they were in the army now. He was captured and sent to a camp in the Scottish countryside. We befriended Richard and my mother held his hand when we bombed Cologne that October. His family were there.
At Christmas time he was allowed to visit us on a Sunday afternoon just for a couple of hours. My great-aunt, with whom we lived at the time, had an old harmonium and I can still remember Richard singing Stille Nacht, and in my child’s mind I was confused. How could he be my enemy. I never saw him again as we moved and did not return until the war was over.
Not all my memories of the war were that good of course, but the memory of Richard has always stayed with me and though I sometimes despair at what people have done I have always looked with respect for the individual and that has stood me in good stead as I have been called to work within some dark places and with people who were lost and rejected both mentally and physically.
The people who make me angry are those who try to demean and damage other people as if that will make them superior in some way. Sadly, I find the increasing levels of hatred of people just because they are different quite alarming and so contrary to my belief in God’s love for all humankind. This was the attitude before the war, and brings with it a level of immorality which needs to be resisted just as much as it was eighty years ago.
The pack mentality is not just present in young gangs but in all groups that claim to know better than anyone else and have no respect for anyone else. It is only a short step from pride in being British to being xenophobic, racist, homophobic and all the other phobics which actually make us behave shamefully.
I believe in our right to be different. You do not have the right to despise anyone just because they are not the same as you, even your enemies. Call it respect, maybe even love.