Tag Archive: War


AMDG

In an age of weak leadership, perhaps it shouldn’t be seen as a surprise that the UK seems a little bit obsessed with Winston Churchill at the moment.  Whether it be the scary future of Brexit or just the nostalgic wallowing in a glorious past, or a bit of both – this monumental and heroic character’s history is being rewritten and reinterpreted again and again.  At the weekend I enjoyed seeing the latest effort – ‘The Darkest Hour‘ – the Oscar-nominated work of Joe Wright (Atonement). I don’t think I watched a film that has so little action and is so dialogue-driven, yet also so absorbing.  Obviously, the stakes are high, its 1940 and Britain is alone in standing up to Hitler.  Churchill has just been elected leader and it is his toughest year – everything looks lost, a German invasion imminent and monumental pressure is put on him to enter some negotiations with Herr Hitler.  The film is cleverly ambiguous, Halifax & Chamberlain are given a fair showing in the film and peace talks seem very reasonable. To qualify as a ‘just-war’ it needs to be a war of last-resort and Thomists and just-war theorists may quibble about who was right, but I think the wonderful line of Churchill, ‘ You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth‘ wins the day.

For me its a great study in leadership – Churchill standing at the dispatch box, with his Tory peers sitting in silence behind him, seething in passive aggression.  In their eyes his failure in the Dardanelles in the First World War and his flip-flopping to the Liberals is unforgivable. When leaders are ‘stress tested’ like this, its make or break time.  Its at times like this when a leader finds out who has ‘got their back’.  The two outstanding supports for Churchill, as portrayed by the film, are his wife Clement and King George VI.  A turning point is when the King, suspicious of Churchill at first, eventually says to him that he has his unequivocal support as he was the only man who when elected as leader struck fear in the heart of Hitler.

There is something lonely about authentic leadership – having to make key decisions that have big impacts/effects on people and living with the consequences.  There is a powerful image of the leader who is edging out onto the ice with everyone cheering them on from the sidelines. This support is flattering but of no use when you fall through the ice and there’s no one there to pull you out!  Ronald Heifetz in his very interesting book on ‘Adaptive Leadership’ has a lot of wisdom to share  –

 

Don’t do it alone – Sounds easy and obvious, but we have seen over and over again how people who are trying to do the right thing end out on a limb all alone. It is not only lonely out there; it is dangerous.  Those who see your good works as a threat will find you a much easier target if you are out there by yourself …. your opponents will do whatever it takes to make you vulnerable…. a much more subtle danger comes from your friends, you enjoy the plaudits that comes from being on the front line… but they say to themselves, ‘if the ice is strong enough we will follow him’, they clap harder as you inch your way across the frozen lake so you think they are right behind you, but when you look back you see them still onshore, wiating to see what happens… to keep you motivated they say things like ‘you are indespensible‘ …. which makes you feel good all over… Want to hear it again? Just inch out further onto the ice…. to avoid making this mistake, when someone tells you how wonderful you are, listen for that little voice inside yourself that says ‘I know I am terrific, but I’m not that terrific’

The UN in Africa

AMDG

Last week I spent a very interesting few hours visiting UNON, the United Nations Office in Nairobi.  I was checking it out akaribunis a place to bring students on a visit next year as part of their induction in East Africa. Globally the UN now has four permanent bases, New York where the general assembly of its constituent 193 member states takes place every (the Holy See has permanent
observer status). There are two more offices in Europe, in Geneva, Vienna and most recently one has opened up in Nairobi in 1996.  Many have argued that it was long overdue to give the UN a sure footing in the continent of Africa, where its original and overriding purpose is to promote peaceis often under threat.   Its environment  programme (UN and habitat programme (are headquartered in Naorobi, but many of its other programmes / funds / commisions also have offices there.

Many  feel the UN is in crisis  – some world argue, given its impossible remit, a state of permanent crisis, its faces the challenge to be semper reforandum – always reforming.   The core dream and vision of the UN is worth fighting for. Riddled with politics, often rendering it ineffective ( Russia & China’s unscrupulous use of the veto in the security council for example) … it is still the only supranational political body that can be called on in a crisis, and often the only one with the clout to get warring parties around the table.  The extraordinary meeting of the Security council in Narobi bringing together the Sudanese on November 2004 is a recent example.secretary-general_ban_ki-moon_right_meets_with_sudanese_foreign_minister_ibrahim_ghandour_oct_2_2015_-_un_evan_schneider-e7ab4

Currently the UN has a succession crisis as they look for a new secretary  general. The recent leadership of the South Koran, Ban Ki Moon has been disappointing, seen as being too protocol bound, lacking the dyanimism and diplomatic genius of his predecessor Kofi Annan.  So there is a sense of urgency to select a leader, in what appears to be the most transparent process yet.   The PC option is to have a women from Eastern Europe, with two Bulgarian canditates spoken of.  But one of the things that has discredited the UN so often is being sucked into the quagmire of ideology and development politics, part of the reform must be shedding the Political Correctness for a more meritocratic way of operating. The farcical appearance of the Vatican before the Comittee for the  Rights of the Child (CRC) was widely criticised for being an axe-grinding exercise, not sticking to its remit.  It seemed to have written the report before hearing an evidence, and like the end of the film Spotlight it conflated what had happened 20 years ago with the present, with no acknowledgement of the serious distance the church has gone in protecting children – for excellent analysis of this read here.

All of the good and bad of the UN are visible in its office at Nairobi, we need to engage creatively with it, accepting and building on the good and recognising and letting go of the bad, if we want to make the world a better place.

Remembering with Hope

AMDG

disciples-empty-tomb-wallpaper   Taken from Todays Homily

Physical death is inevitable for all of us.  One day our hearts will stop beating, our brains will stop working, our bodies will become stiff and cold, and start to decay. …….  I thought that would cheer you up!  ……..  But that is not the end of the story for us.  Our faith leads us beyond death.  Biological or physical cessation does not mean spiritual death for us.  So this November as we remember the dead…..we must always we remember that our faith is built on the rock of the physical resurrection of Christ – his defeat of physical death.  We can historically prove Jesus’s death. Historians tell me that even the empty tomb of Jesus can be historically proven with recourse to divergent and non-Christian Sources.  But the physical resurrection of Christ is a matter of faith.   It is the physical resurrection of Jesus that gives us hope in the face of our own death.   Some theologians have tried to water this down – but we remember in the gospels that Thomas touched the risen Jesus’s side, that the risen Christ ate with the disciples –these physical details matter.   The  physical resurrection of Christ – this allows us to make sense of death.  In today’s Gospel Jesus encounters the  Sadducees who do not believe in the resurrection.  Jesus is talking to their unbelief  and says  that God is not the God of the dead but of the living; for to him all men are in fact alive

mem-127aOur belief in the resurrection and in eternal life  allows us to hope even in the face of terrible killing and slaughter on a massive scale.   Today we remember those who have died in the terrible wars of  the twentieth century – In this country it is called Remembrance Sunday.  It is today because of the end of World War One – On the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. Here in the Holy Name in Manchester we have a war memorial with 226 names on it, 226 young men, sitting in these pews who were killed.  Today we remember them especially.  I will ask someone you all know, Michael Keneely to come and lay flowers by their names.  You may not know Michael by name – but you will recognise his face.  Michael is the old man that welcomes you at the back of church when you come to mass.  He was a marine in the Second World War and took part in the D-Day Landings on Sword Beach in Normandy.  It was the D-Day landings that led to the liberation of Europe.  Michael’s brother was later killed in Palestine.   Let’s give him a round of applause as he brings the flowers forward.