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March 2015
Signs and symbols

There was a lot of marching and tinkling of medals at the service for Afghanistan at St Paul's Cathedral on 13 March. Commentators noted that this was not a triumphalist event - even for British skill at turning disaster into victory, this was one failure too far.



In 1982 Archbishop Robert Runcie denounced nationalism, condemned the global arms trade and characterised war as a sign of human failure in the post Falklands war ceremony at St Paul's. In 2009 following the gulf war Archbishop Rowan Williams merely noted the failure to foresee and measure the cost of the war. He also noted that it would be a long time before the rights and wrongs of the conflict would be resolved. This year Archbishop Justin Welby’s sermon centred on the faithfulness of the individuals who fought in Afghanistan and of the families who waited for them.

The retreat of the anglican churche’s hierarchy from challenging war making in1982 is saddening. From denouncing war in 1982, through wondering whether war is right or wrong to a parochial concern for the few british individuals that were killed which may have given comfort to the military and relatives but surely is an inadequate response to the invasion and its consequences now that Afghanistan is as ungovernable - over15000 civilians killed since British boots pounded its soil once again.

A ‘drum head’ altar, as pictured above, was also seen on the steps of St Paul's cathedral in 1915 when the Bishop of London Arthur Winnington-Ingram used his authority to recruit men to fight in the war. There is no mention of this on the Cathedrals tourist oriented website.