Today the 70th anniversary of the Kristalnacht antisemitic riots was marked in Germany. Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, is often regarded as the starting point of the Holocaust. For Anglican congregations, today was Rememberance Sunday - which is a day of rememberance for all those who have given their lives in the pursuit of peace and freedom. One part of the pastor's sermon in Church today got me thinking about how, 60 years, the amount of time that has elapsed since the end of WWII wasn't such a long period of time if things are put into perspective. Such conflicts in places like Northern Ireland, the Balkans and even the Hutsi-Tutsi war have gone/went on for so much longer. Seeing how far Western Europe has gone in putting behind the hatred and enimty of the war and in uniting and forging a common destiny is a great lesson, especially for Africa. Below are a few outstanding examples of how far people on different sides of World war II have come in terms of moving on in the last 60 years.
The Dresden Frauenkirche(The Church of our lady), destroyed during the (deliberately? some might controversially argue) bombing of Dresden (which was one of the most beautiful Baroque cities in Europe) by the US and British troops just a few weeks before the end of the war, as well as the Coventry cathedral, destroyed by German bombers during the same war were both kept for years as war memorials. The Dresden Frauenkirche was reconstructed and rededicated in 2005, having been rebuilt over a period of 13 years with donations from severaly sources, including support from the city of Coventry. The new cross on top of the dome of the cathedral was constructed by Alan Smith, a British goldsmith from London whose father, Frank, was a member of one of the aircrews who took part in the bombing of Dresden.
Volgograd was almost completely destroyed during WWII. The Battle of Volgograd/Stalingrad was the bloodiest battle in human history, with combined casualties estimated to be above 1.5 million. I visited war gravesite and memorial in Volgograd(Stalingrad), Russia sometime in early 2001. Some groups in Germany were financing the excavation of the mass graves, and identification of soldiers bodies, both Russian and German. The names of the victims identified so far are engraved into a wall, with the graves of Russian soldiers on one side of the road, and those of German soldiers on the other side.
It always amazes me anytime I travel in Alsace, the region in France of which Strasbourg, where the council of Europe has its seat, is the capital city. Alsace is a region that lies between Germanz and France and which has several times in its history been transferred back and forth between the two countries. In fact, during the last war, members of the same family were drafted to fight on different sides. Yet, today, the people of Alsace, France and Germany have moved on. Alsacians can now speak their language freely and celebrate their culture openly. One can move freely between both countries, live in France and work in Germany and vice-versa. You can do your shopping across the border in the same currency, without any stress or fear (Of course once you cross the border, even though there are rarely any checks, you instinctively sense you are in a different country due to the difference in architecture and landscape).
These are a few examples of how far these peoples have come in the 6o years since the war ended. How I wished many African countries would take a cue. A peculiarity of African wars is that most of the conflicts in Africa are tribal/ethnic conflicts that have spanned centuries - before the Europeans arrived and complicated the problems by forcing them into one country, Hutsis and Tutsis were killing each other, etc. Wars within a country only destroy the common future for both the agressor and the aggrieved. The current conflict in Congo has very few winners, perhaps 0,001% of the population.
Even in Nigeria where thére is currently no war going on, tribalism has continued to pull us down. This disease that makes the fact of a person being 'my brother' the single most important fact in political appointments or in the prosecution of offences is pulling us back as a country. There is a subconcious tribal war going on in that country. Its time to realise that as long as Nigeria remains one country, we share a common destiny. To paraphrase that biblical admonishment to captive Jews in a foreign land 'pray for the peace of the land you are in, for in its peace, you will find your peace'. Without peace for the Igbo, the Yoruba cannot have peace in the same country. As long as some people in the North continue in ignorance to refuse vaccination for their children against polio, all of our children will continue to be at risk of polio. As long as progress and justice bypasses the Niger Delta, true economic progress cannot come to the whole country. Our destinies and futures are shared. We need to let that fact permeate our minds and hearts.