The news of war in Ukraine is gradually drifting from our television screens. Some have said that they can no longer bear to watch images of such terrible suffering night after night on the news; the suffering of people who, until a few months ago, lived in a prosperous society very like our own.
The media, always alert to its role of mirroring the concerns of their audience, can quickly turn a blind eye.
However, one image of that suffering may remain imprinted on the memory. It is of a line of captured Ukrainian civilians crossing a quiet street. They are in single file, bowed down, each holding onto the coat of the one in front. Moments later, they have been taken out of sight behind a vacant house and executed, their bodies left like bundles of clothes on the ground.
What may come to mind if you have seen Ingmar Bergman’s film, The Seventh Seal, is the closing shot of a group of people against the horizon, holding hands as they are led by Death across the screen. His film of course, is set in fourteenth century Europe as the Black Death raged across Europe, killing one in three of the population.
Both images are profoundly troubling.
In this time, when every tragedy happening across the world is there on our television screens, how do we hold it all together – our ordinary, largely peaceful, everyday lives and the terrible events happening to our human family somewhere ‘over there’. Can we continue to hold images of gaunt Ethiopian women holding their skeletal children, without eventually turning away – feeling helpless?
Somehow, we need to hold it all together, without rejecting either what we may see as our own fortunate lifestyle (although it has its own huge problems) and the chaos created somewhere by poor government or global oppression and corrupt practices.
We can hold all our human family in our heart (as well as making financial or other practical contributions). The important thing, I think, is to keep remembering them as we go about this business of daily living; to keep them in mind and in prayer without becoming hopeless, knowing that we commend them to a Heart and Consciousness that is intimately part of our human existence.