Dedicated to our Serbian Readers
This is not a subject that I ever thought of writing about. After all, I do not even know if my own soul can be saved. However, on Thomas Sunday, something happened to me that made me think.
After the children’s procession and the Easter parish meal which we have every year on Thomas Sunday, I was standing outside the Church, when a man came from the street outside and spoke to me. He was in his thirties and he asked me what our church was and what we believed. I quickly realized that he was an ex-soldier and had personal problems, perhaps linked with alcoholism or drugs. I should explain that our church is in the military town of Colchester, where there are 4,000 troops and thousands of ex-soldiers, many of whom have psychological problems. (1)
In any case, when I asked the man where he had served as a soldier, he answered Iraq. He then asked me if I believed in forgiveness. I answered yes. He asked me if I had ever seen my best friends blown apart by a bomb. I answered no, but that it had happened to my father at the Battle of El Alamein in 1942 when he had lost his two best friends on either side of him, but he himself had only suffered leg wounds. He asked me again if I could forgive those responsible for murdering his friends. I replied that in a war you have to look at it from the enemy’s viewpoint, that those who had killed his friends were also just obeying orders. He said that he understood perfectly the Iraqi soldiers and he could forgive them, they were simply defending their country against invading and occupying British forces. The problem was not forgiving them, it was forgiving Tony Blair, who had sent British forces to invade and occupy Iraq, ensuring that his friends had been killed. ‘How’, he repeated’. ‘can I ever forgive Tony Blair?’
I did not answer this unexpected question at once. Then I said: ‘Only if he repents’. He answered, ‘You mean, if he says sorry? That’s just words’. I explained to him that repentance does not mean words, but actions. He thought for a moment, grunted and we shook hands and he walked away, an embittered, twisted, distraught and traumatized soul, his life ruined by what he had seen. After this meeting, on Sunday evening I thought about this conversation and lay awake till after midnight, searching for an answer and this is what came to me.
Now Tony Blair is a very rich man. The USA gave him many millions of dollars for taking part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. According to media reports, he is worth at least £50 million, his money stashed away in tax havens where he does not pay any tax. Yes, it is true that he dare not walk the streets in the UK. At best he would be insulted and have eggs and tomatoes thrown at him. At worst, he would be beaten up and perhaps lynched by people like the ex-soldier I met. Clearly he dare not show his face in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries which he helped invade and occupy, because he would be blown up or killed immediately. They are Islamic countries, without the concept of Christian forgiveness. They only know bitterness and revenge. However, there is a third country which he invaded and which has a Christian tradition. Could that become for him the place of his salvation?
I am speaking of course of Serbia. Every conscious human-being remembers the photograph of the mindless RAF serviceman chalking ‘Happy Easter’ on a bomb to kill and maim innocent civilians in Belgrade at Orthodox Easter 1999. Everybody remembers the ravages of NATO there, their uranium-tipped shells giving Serbian children cancer to this day. Everybody remembers the hundreds of thousands of Serbian refugees, torn from their ancestral lands by Western-backed ethnic cleansing in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Everybody remembers how Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro were torn from unity with Serbia and how the US State Department created a purely political schism in the Serbian Church, notably in Kosovo, and how the new Serbian Patriarch was humiliated by being forced to visit a synagogue by the US/EU-appointed gauleiters of Serbia.
How could Tony Blair save his soul?
We suggest that if he were to give up his vast wealth and give it to the Serbian bishops in the Serbian Lands, perhaps especially in Kosovo, and then dedicate the rest of his life to working as an unpaid helper among the starving and deprived in Serbian refugee camps, doing the most menial tasks in kitchens and cleaning toilets, looking after and serving children and old people, maimed and traumatized Serbs in all the Serbian Lands, perhaps then he could save his soul. First of all, he could find forgiveness from the Serbian people, but, above all, he could find forgiveness from God for his war crimes, which must surely weigh so heavily on his conscience and haggard face.
We do not know how long Tony Blair has to live. Obviously, he has already had more than half his life. Obviously, every day that he lives he is a day nearer to his death. Obviously, every day that he lives without repentance is a day nearer to hell, the fires of which, judging by his awful appearance, he is already experiencing. Above, we have made a suggestion, that might bring him closer to salvation. It might also being an outraged and embittered soldier in Colchester closer to peace in his heart. And many others too.
We have suggested how Tony Blair could find salvation. We have expressed optimism. The question as to if he will find salvation remains open. Here we feel profound pessimism. None of us wants to stand at the Last Judgement. All of us tremble at the thought. But I would not like to be Tony Blair at the Last Judgement.
1. One elderly veteran, now dead, came to me in Colchester a few years ago and told me that as a Special Forces soldier he had been in Cyprus in the 1950s and had been ordered to assassinate Archbishop Makarios. The operation had failed and he told me that he was racked by guilt because he had been quite willing to follow British Establishment orders and murder a Christian Archbishop. I advised him to go into our church and light a candle for the Archbishop and pray for his soul every day for the rest of his life and ask for forgiveness for himself.