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Hidden Scars of war and conflict

posted 9 Nov 2015, 01:38 by Dean Fostekew

‘What you can’t see’         Anon

If every wound

Showed on your skin

If all the pain within

Were worn on the outside

If every scar were so easy

To see

How differently you’d

See me

In war (as in many other traumatic life events, but most especially in war) there are always many hidden casualties as the poem above states with ‘hidden scars’. The parents and loved ones of those sent to fight can have a ‘hell of a time’ trying to live their normal lives just as much as those sent to fight. The combatants themselves also have to deal with the hell that is war on a daily basis and it takes its toll, both physically and mentally. For they are often called upon to do things none of us would wish to do or even think about. And it is the mental scars that can be hidden and so deeply affecting for years and years. In fact some of these hidden scars may not be noticeable at first and it may only be years later that they surface. There are WWII veterans today who are just coming to terms with their past and who need our support just as much as those of more recent conflicts. Mental scars can be just as painful as physical wounds.

You see glimpses of this in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion and death and how it affected his mother Mary and the disciples and despite what happened next in the story I suspect that they carried their scars for the rest of their lives. For when you experience something that you would not rather experience   the emotions and turmoil caused can remain with you for a very long time if not for ever. If you read Colm Toibin’s novella; ‘The testament of Mary’ you get an idea of perhaps what Jesus’ loved ones lived with following his ascension and it does not make easy reading.

We human beings are easily wounded and scared but our injuries may not immediately appear but fester away hidden for years and decades until they can be healed. So much mental anguish and distress in our military personnel is hidden. If you are expected to be tough it can be hard to show vulnerability and so many people think of mental illness as something shameful and not to be talked about. We really need to change our attitudes as a society. For when the hell breaks lose those in pain really need our help just as much as those physically injured. They deserve our support and need our support in the ways we might give it to those more obviously affected by war.

Those suffering from the mental plans of war need to hear the words; ‘do not be afraid’. the words offered to them by health professionals, loved ones and the living Christ. As Christ’s disciples we have a duty of care to those in distress and to those who need our help. If nothing else we should regularly pray for all affected by war in whatever way be they military personnel or civilians. 

Part of yesterday's sermon for the Church of the Good Shepherd, Murrayfield Edinburgh