War must always represent the abject failure of humanity, the head of the Anglican church in Ireland said last night.
Archbishop of Armagh Dr Richard Clarke said commemoration of the First World War could not be spiritually separated from carnage in more contemporary trouble spots.
Addressing a service in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, Dr Clarke said: “War must always represent the abject failure of the human spirit and of humanity itself. It can never be other and we should never pretend it is other.”
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, First Minister Peter Robinson and Irish heritage minister Heather Humphreys were among those attending the service, at which candles were lit and the Royal British Legion raised two standards.
Dr Clarke said: “Without being guilty of the worst kind of religious escapism, we cannot spiritually separate the violence, the carnage and the suffering of the innocent that is under our gaze today – whether in Gaza, in Israel, in Syria, in Ukraine or in Iraq – from our memorialising of the beginnings of the First World War.”
He said that memorialising past conflicts can be “a thing of beauty” – or an act of hatred, depending how it is done.
He went on to say: “In the Great War we see heroism and cruelty standing side by side, we see cynical disillusionment and moral determination intertwining and we see hope and despair in equal measure and on every side.”
Among those also speaking was DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who read a poem written by the mother of Private Ralph Adams, Royal Irish Rifles, killed on the first day of the battle of the Somme in 1916.
It read, in part: “He volunteered as an Ulsterman / What more could a subject do.
“He fought for King and country / And he died for the red, white and blue.”