Rector's Letter  - April 2000

 My dear friends,

 Easter 1998, I stood on the spot where the First World War began.  It was a pretty boulevard full of the animated chatter of roadside cafés and spring birdsong.  The city was Sarajevo.

 Eighty four years earlier, a young Serbian student by the name of Gavrilo Princip, had spent a morning in one of the cafés and fuelled his nationalism with plum brandy.   When the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire drove by, he pulled out a pistol and shot him dead.  The spark from Princip's gun lit a flame in the tinderbox of Europe.  And the conflagration that followed consumed a generation of Europe's finest young men - most of whom had probably never even heard of Serbia.

 They used to have a plaque set into the pavement marking the spot.  But of course Gavrilo Princip was a Serbian hero, and these days Sarajevo belongs to Bosnian Muslims.  The city has been "cleansed" of its Serbs.  A new section of tarmac has left the site strangely and anonymously sterile.  History is less easily obliterated.

 I moved out of a chill Balkan wind and found the shelter of a scarred wall pock-marked by snipers' bullets.  A few yards away the pavement had been shattered by a mortar round.  Signs of a more recent conflict.  Scar upon scar.  A complex layer of wounds like Balkan history itself.  I wasn't to know it, but within months the chill wind of conflict would break upon the Balkans again, and by Easter 1999 the hillsides of Kosovo to the south would echo to the sound of gunfire and bombing.

 Where can these nations find their peace and their healing?  By now everyone's a victim, every family bereaved.

 I know only one antidote to the malignancy of revenge, one healing for the scars of history: As Jesus was nailed to the cross he prayed "Father forgive them".

 God bless you this Easter.  May his peace reign in your hearts.

              Jeff Cuttell.

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