In November 1940 the full fury of Hitler’s Luftwaffe fell on Coventry, England.
The first wave of bombers dropped thousands of incendiary bombs, putting the city to flame. Later came the heavy ordnance. After a night of death and terror, the people of Coventry awoke to a devastation so horrific, “Coventry” would become a byword for Nazi power.
The medieval cathedral was not spared, its roof collapsing into rubble, its windows melting, its relics burned. Behind the altar of rubble, a priest would later inscribe the words, “Father Forgive.” The words, of course, belong to Jesus who said, while dying on the cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”
At first glance, the words seem naive. After all, the Luftwaffe knew exactly what it was doing. Coventry was home to the factories which built the Merlin engine, the power behind the RAF’s plucky Spitfire fighter. The aim was sure: destroy the factories, demoralise the people. When the RAF unleashed its own fury on Dresden and other German cities, the aim was similar, the devastation worse.
Humans willingly and knowingly commit all manner of evil. It seems to me that at the root of this is an ignorance of our true nature. There is a sobering yet oft-ignored corollary to King Benjamin’s belief that when we serve others, we serve God. Surely if that is true, the opposite is likewise: when we commit evil against Man, we commit evil against God.
“For if you do it unto one of the least of these, my brethren, you do it unto me.” We would not knowingly hate, abuse, cheat, or lust after God. And yet we do it all the time. Father, forgive us indeed.
The rebuilt cathedral is now a monument to peace and reconciliation. Some pictures:
St. Michael defeats the Devil
Statue of Reconciliation