Remembrance Sunday: Tear down the walls that divide us

Tommy credit Les Hull GeographThe Revd Nicola Furley-Smith, the United Reformed Church Secretary for Ministries, reflects on the type of walls that divide people for Remembrance Sunday.

People have been building walls for thousands of years: those that keep people in and those that keep people out.

In recent years examples include President Trump’s 2000-mile barricade to keep people out of the United States, and the Berlin Wall that kept the people of East Berlin in a communist state.

In the Bible, the walls of Jericho served a particular purpose of safety and security to keep out the mass of humanity fleeing slavery and oppression on their way to settle in a new land where they would feel welcome. Yet, the choice of the residents of Jericho was not to show welcome but to shut their doors, perhaps an understandable response against a people who posed a threat both to the culture and to the economic structures of the region. Yet closing doors to the stranger in need is a violation of the fundamental ethos of every Semitic culture, and by extension, a violation of the will of the God of Israel. 

Make Hummas not wallsWalls are again built in the narratives of Ezra and Nehemiah, the scribe and prophet tasked by Cyrus of Persia with a major rebuilding project. Jerusalem’s physical walls are not only designed to prevent invasion but serve to reinforce a renewed strength and pride in the purity of Judah.  Ezra and Nehemiah see this as part of God’s will to ensure the future of the nation-state by creating a deliberate policy to purge the foreigner from the land.

In contrast Isaiah, argues passionately for the inclusion of the stranger within the land. The Book of Ruth reminds the Israelites that their greatest king had Moabite blood.

As we can see people have been building walls for thousands of years, it’s just the people who have changed.

This Remembrance Sunday we remember the tearing down of walls that divide us and commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts.

We also give thanks on Armistice Day (11 November) as we recognise that war is not the default position of human relations, peace is.

This Remembrance Sunday we give thanks for 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall which ended the segregation of families, friends and neighbours.

In August 2018, 50 young people aged 12-20 from the UK, Germany, the Czech Republic and the USA met together for 10 days in Purley, London, to talk about peace and reconciliation.

US Mexico border wall in Tijuana Mexico credit pixabayThese young people were well aware of the world in which they live, of Brexit, barbed wire, and armed guards in places of worship.

At the final service of that gathering they read out a statement which they had written over those 10 days about how they envisage the world should be, without walls. I share it with you now as a prayer for peace:

We don’t believe in war
We don’t believe in conflict
We don’t believe in violence
We believe in kindness and helpfulness
We believe in fairness and thoughtfulness
We believe in co-operation and caring
We believe in tolerance and understanding
We believe in rainbows and making music together
We believe in mindfulness and forgiveness
We believe in making friends and being inclusive
We believe in patience and making compromises
We believe in being flexible and in good communication
We believe in being open-minded and welcoming change
We believe in sharing and looking after each other
We believe in respect for each other and respect for differences
We believe in working together and keeping others’ feelings in mind
We believe in peace
We believe in reconciliation
We believe all you need is love.



Picture 1: Tommy, the day after Remembrance/Les Hull/Geograph licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Picture 2: An image of part of the wall dividing the West Bank/Nicola Furley-Smith
Picture 3: The US/Mexico border wall in Tijuana, Mexico/Estela Parra/Pixabay
ublished: 6 November 2019