In Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Helm’s Deep is under attack from an army numbering thousands fighting for the evil Saruman. It has only one aim: the complete annihilation of its enemy, including women and children. It seems very likely that it will succeed. The King of Rohan, whose people are under attack laments, “So much death. What can men do in the face of such reckless hate?”
This question seemed very pertinent in the light of the events of 9/11, whose tenth anniversary we marked this weekend, when men motivated by such reckless hate committed those murderous acts. None who witnessed the events unfold will forget the horror and despair they felt, especially when it became clear that this was no accident. It is easy to lose hope when we encounter such hate.
What can men do in the face of such reckless hate?
Much has already been spoken and written about the rights and wrongs of the response of America and its allies to the most notorious terrorist attacks in recent history. This is not the time or place to join the debate. All I can say is that we must pray for our leaders for wisdom and guidance as they have to make difficult ethical decisions day to day. But there are lessons we all can and must learn from such horrific acts.
Rob Halligan, a singer-songwriter whose dad Robert died on that day, believes that forgiveness is key. "Looking at 9/11 ten years on and just seeing this continuing cycle of violence you think - we need to find some sort of reconciliation, some kind of way forward that isn't just about killing each other."
His message chimes with the message of the Christian faith – that of reconciliation and forgiveness. Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross so that all might be reconciled to God and be forgiven. Christians in turn, as St. Paul writes in one of his letters, are “Christ’s ambassadors” in this world; sent to do his work of reconciliation, called to bridge the chasm opened up by hate through pursuing love at all costs. God “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).
We have been committed with the message of reconciliation. Let us then meet hate with love, however much it hurts; let us ask God to give us strength to be his ambassadors and to reach out in love and peace to his broken world.
In South Africa during Apartheid a black woman’s son and husband were murdered. Her husband’s last words were, "Father, forgive them." During the Truth and Reconciliation council following the end of Apartheid, she was asked what she wanted done with Mr van der Broek, the man responsible for the murders. She replied that she wanted three things… First, to give her husband’s remains a proper burial. Secondly, as she had no family she wanted Mr van der Broek to become her son, so she could simply pour out her remaining love on him. Thirdly, she asked to be taken across the courtroom to embrace Mr van der Broek so he would know he was truly forgiven. At this, Mr van der Broek fainted from the emotion. As he did, the whole courtroom spontaneously broke out in, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.”
What can men do in the face of such reckless hate? Meet it head on with love, and love will win. Love has won. Christ has conquered.