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Fight for your country

Posted April 25, 2018

What would you do if you were called on to fight for your country? Thankfully, it’s a question most of us will never have to answer. But on Anzac Day we remember those who did have to answer that question.

It’s a question that has split Christians down through the centuries. Jesus told people not to fight back when attacked—how should we, as his followers, respond? And what if other innocent people are in danger? While we honour pacifists, Christians also hail Dietrich Boenhoeffer who was alleged to have conspired to kill Hitler.  

During World War I, Salvationists heroically fought and served in non-combat roles on both sides. At least 380 New Zealand Salvationists joined the military, with about 10–12 per cent of those serving in the Medical Corps. A further 18 were military chaplains here and on the French front, as well as two further officer couples providing social and spiritual support in France. They served through a scale of horror we had not seen before in human history.

Acknowledging their great sacrifice is important. But part of remembrance is also acknowledging that war is not something we want. Wherever you stand on the first question, war is not part of God’s ideal for our lives. Jesus was clear: blessed are the peacemakers.

The challenge for us is being peacemakers today. The Salvation Army was founded on the principles of fighting like an army to save, to bring healing and reconcilliation.

An inspiring example of a peacemaker comes from Salvation Army Lieutenant-Colonel Alida Bosshardt. During World War II, Alida ran a children’s home in the Jewish Quarter of Amsterdam. When the occupying Nazis banned The Salvation Army in 1941, Alida carried on caring for her mainly Jewish charges. They had to move at least 10 times, and then split up and were secured in safe houses. In 1942, when the Nazis began sending Jews off to concentration camps, parents begged Alida to protect their children.

She found homes for many, even on occasion hiding them in the wicker basket of her bicycle, cycling past unsuspecting soldiers to smuggle them to safe houses.

She was captured, escaped, went into hiding, and then came back to carry on her work!

However, her work to bring healing and reconcilliation did not end with the end of the war. Carrying on working into her 90s, Alida worked with addicts, the homeless and prostitutes in Amsterdam’s red light district. Her efforts saw her become the face of the Army in Holland. When she died in 2007, more than a million people watched her funeral live on television, while thousands lined up to see her coffin bearing her Bible on top.

Her motto was: ‘to serve God is to serve man and serve man is to serve God’. She was a peacemaker, even in times of war.

by Robin Raymond (c) 'War Cry' magazine, 21 April 2018, pp3. You can read 'War Cry' at your nearest Salvation Army church or centre, or subscribe through Salvationist Resources.