In the United States, today marks the day upon which Americans will honor the fallen at war. Yet, how often during this day of remembrance will people think also of the animals that were part of our wars? I would say “served”, yet I hardly think that animals served at war, it certainly was not their choice; mankind used them in war to suit his needs. So, I was happy to come across this website that honors animals in war – a memorial page for them! On the “Stories” page is the following haunting, yet beautiful poem:
The Soldier’s Kiss
Only a dying horse! Pull off the gear,
And slip the needless bit from frothing jaws,
Drag it aside there, leave the roadway clear-
The battery thunders on with scare a pause.
Prone by the shell-swept highway there it lies
With quivering limbs, as fast the life tide fails.
Dark films are closing o’er the faithful eyes
That mutely plead for aid where none avails.
Onward the battery roll, but one there speeds,
Heedless of comrade’s voice or bursting shell,
Back to the wounded friend who lonely bleeds
Beside the stony highway where it fell.
Only a dying horse! He swiftly kneels,
Lifts the limp head and hears the shivering sigh
Kisses his friend, While down his cheek there steals
Sweet pity’s tear; ‘Goodbye Old Man, Goodbye.’
No honours wait him, Medal, Badge, or Star,
Though scare could war a kindlier deed unfold;
He bears within his breast, more precious far
Beyond the gift of kings, a heart of hold.
To help commemorate this day, we bring you some excerpts from an article written by May Tripp of Animal Christian Concern, and number 41, in Roslyne Smith‘s book, Animal Welfare: Through The Cross, A Collection of Animal Christian Concern Articles. To order the book, see our “Feature Book” link on the SAGC page in the right margin.
THE GULF WAR: 1991
“O Sovereign Lord, Holy and true, how long before Thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” (Revelation 6:10)
It is February, 1991, and guns of war are pounding in the countries of the gulf, in those countries which the Holy Bible knows as Babylon. Missiles streak across skies darkened by black clouds of pollution, human lives are lost as building topple, planes crash and ships sink. Creatures of the land and sea struggle to survive on scorched earth and in befouled waters; creatures of land and sea lose the anguished struggle and die.
“How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein?” (Jeremiah 12:4)
“How long…?” cried the martyred saints of Revelation, unable to understand the stillness of God in the face of an evil which had killed, and which would continue to kill, His people. “How long…?” silently prayed those of us who kept vigil for peace and believed to the last that this war would not, could not, start. “How long…?” must grieve the hearts of all those whose loved ones now face the dangers of conflict or of captivity.
What is it that we want when we cry out to God in this way? We want him to intervene, oh yes, we want him to intervene and sometimes it seems that he does. Individual prayers are answered, people are healed, situations are resolved and requests are heard and granted. But the really big crises seem to be beyond his scope. Wars rage, civil conflicts grind on and famines devour the innocent.
It is often difficult to remember the one really big intervention of God, the one in which he sent his Son into a world torn by spiritual warfare and in which his creatures had fallen into enemy hands, with orders to secure the release of his creation even at the cost of his own life.
“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things; whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:19)
“The Lord is going to devastate the earth and leave it desolate….The lord has spoken and it will be done…The earth dries up and withers; the whole world grows weak; both earth and sky decay. The people have defiled the earth by breaking God’s laws and by violating the covenant he made to last forever…A time is coming when the Lord will punish the powers above and the rulers of the earth….He will rule in Jerusalem on Mount Zion, and the leaders of the people will see His glory.” (Isaiah 24)
Constantly we Christians pray for the return of Christ Jesus, pray for that return promised by him in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21. We try to avoid remembering that his return will be preceded by the traumatic, earth-shaking events which were prophesied by Isaiah, the Gospels and revealed to John in the Book of Revelation. “The Lord is going to devastate the earth…” This is a hard prophecy and how are we to understand it? How can this be the will of God who is Love? Could Isaiah thousands of years ago, or even a visionary of one hundred years ago have envisaged a situation in which good earth would rot with pollution and high above, the ozone layer would fracture? Did John really believe, as he faithfully recorded the words, that there would come a day when:
“…a third of the sea became blood, a third of the living creatures in the sea dies…” (Revelation 8)
Now that we, God’s people of 1991, have seen indications of some of these things coming to pass, as well as the emergence of a fearful nuclear potential, perhaps we can understand these hard words a little more clearly. We can now recognize that we ourselves have brought these things to pass, simply by living a human-centred existence in the worship of our own human-centred knowledge, rather than in the loving selflessness of God. The awful thing is that we do not need to be bad to be separated from the ways of God; we only need to be human. Much of the world’s pollution has been brought about by genuine, if selfish, attempts to improve the lot of humankind [I, Kathy, add: indeed much of which ails mankind including and especially war can be traced to human-centredness along with man’s stubborn resistance to live within the mandates of God’s will].
… Exploitation is at the root of almost everything which cossets us. If you find this difficult to accept, then look through your larder, your wardrobe, your home and your garage and trace the contents back to the Third World with its sweated labour, to the receding rain forests, to insecticide sprays, to animal research laboratories, to intensive farms and abattoirs, to the victims of the war in the Gulf [and I, Kathy, add: in likely any war that befalls mankind]. But at the same time remember that they who are exploited, given the opportunity, would themselves exploit. This is what it is to be human. This is what it is to be fallen. This is what it is to need a Saviour:
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. “ (Romans 3:23)
How eagerly we reach out for the saving love of Jesus the Good Shepherd – not quite so eagerly, perhaps to the judgment of Jesus, the Lamb who sits upon the throne.
To read May’s entire article: THE GULF WAR
Today in America, wherever we are, however we commemorate this day, let’s also remember the fallen animals who also died while at war.
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