The 888,246 Tower of London poppies are being removed, even though they were perhaps the most successful art installation ever. They were an effective and moving way to represent the number of British and British colonial soldiers killed in the First World War. The number was astonishing and the poppies were a powerful reminder of the cost in human lives of war, but they represented a small fraction of the total number of lives lost during WW1 – estimated at 10 million military personnel and 7 million civilians. World War Two cost nearly 21 million military and over 27 million civilian lives. The numbers killed in war are beyond comprehension, but they go on rising year by year. It didn’t begin or end with the twentieth century and perhaps it never will end, so removing the poppies is as significant to their meaning as placing them was – human life is frail and transient.
I don’t know how to make people live in peace. Some people claim to know, but I suspect that their answer is that everyone should be like them. But I do think there are some clues to the way. For example when Jesus was asked, “who is my neighbour that I should love as I love myself?” he replied with a story about how a man who was an enemy from Samaria helped a man who had been attacked and robbed on a road out of Jerusalem. The despised Samaritan proved to be the neighbour who should be loved.
Chris Ivory, St Margaret’s Church