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Thought for the weekend: Our future is best tribute to past

By Canon Walter Lewis

Published 14/11/2015

In 1898, my great uncle Tom lived in Kilkenny. Alongside his father, brother and staff, he trained and looked after horses in the family transport business.

At that time, there was an appeal for young men to join the new Imperial Yeomanry Cavalry Regiment of the British Army, to fight in the Boer War in South Africa. Tom joined up.

With the rank of farrier sergeant, he fought in six campaigns and died there in 1902. He was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal. I mention Tom because he is my closest family member to have died in war. Like thousands of other cavalrymen, he never returned to these shores. He lies buried where he fell - without family and far from home. He was 21. His certificate of commendation states that he "left all that was dear to him, endured hardness, faced danger and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice, giving up his own life that others might live in freedom."

During the past week, we have commemorated Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day, so that those who have died in the service of their country be not forgotten. Most importantly, they gave up their own lives that others might live in freedom. "For our tomorrows, they gave their today."

In other words, they gave their today so that you and I and generations to come might have a better life of security, happiness, justice and freedom.

So, as we look back and remember their sacrifice, we are bidden to look forward and ask: "Are we expending our greatest efforts to building a better life for everyone? Are we honouring the memory for relatives, friends, fellow countrymen and women, for the ultimate price they paid so that we today might enjoy security and peace?"

For example, are we harnessing all our efforts to build a strong economy in Northern Ireland? This should be a top priority for our politicians at Stormont.

Over the years, the Executive has attracted new investment here. But that progress is negated when established industries leave Northern Ireland as we have seen with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs, announced within the last fortnight. In this regard, we must expect greater efforts from our very well-paid politicians and hold them to account when the economy is allowed to fail, and premium jobs are lost.

More can be done to build a better society for all. Perhaps we never reached "make-your-mind-up-time" here - the critical point where we say: "We invest ourselves in the future. The tragic past cannot be recalled, or changed. For the sake of our children and generations to come, we leave behind the past of unspeakable deeds of terror, murder and bombing and the underlying corrosive hatred; and devote ourselves to creating an attractive tomorrow for everyone."

Is God not calling us to lay the nightmares of the past to rest and to address the challenges of our 21st-century global society - war in the Middle-East, Isis, Russian aggression, the refugee crisis, the ever-widening gap between the super-rich and the poor, housing for our young people, etc?

Within the last week, we have remembered the past. Let us now look to the future and build a sustainable, shared society of prosperity, justice, freedom and peace.

Belfast Telegraph

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