Londonderry pastor Rev. Jonathan Campbell has attacked an English newspaper columnist for suggesting rituals associated with Remembrance Sunday are “oppressive” and should be phased out.
The Newbuildings Independent Methodist Minister said the suggestion by the associate editor of The Guardian, Martin Kettle, was “terrible” and tantamount to “dancing on the graves of the brave soldiers who died in the wars.”
In an opinion piece published by The Guardian on Friday, Mr Kettle wrote: “It is surely possible to respect the importance of history and to support events that bring peoples together while still feeling that at least some aspects of these particular rituals have now become unnecessarily oppressive.
“At some point in the future, after all, we will begin to let go of these rituals. One day, the head of state will no longer lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in November for the long-distant dead.
“One day, MPs and TV newsreaders will not feel the press of obligation to wear poppies on all public appearances or else risk charges of being unpatriotic from newspapers owned by tax exiles.”
These comments provoked an angry reaction from Rev. Campbell who in a sermon stressing the importance of Reformation Sunday at the weekend, told his congregation: “Whenever Remembrance Sunday comes around that’s the phrase that everyone thinks about: ‘Lest we forget.’
“That phrase is taken from the Bible and God was saying to Israel: ‘Beware, lest you forget. Guard against forgetting, guard against people who will come to you and say, forget about the past and focus on the present.’
“Now, I know that we should not live in the past and it’s important that we don’t dwell in the past and constantly harp back and look back to the glory days, as it were. We need to learn from the past. I know that.
“But it is important that we remember the past so that we can learn from it.”
Rev. Campbell then went on to reference Mr Kettle’s opinion piece.
“You know there is a man who writes for The Guardian newspaper? He thinks that we shouldn’t have any more Remembrance Sundays. We should scrap Remembrance Sundays.
“One of The Guardian columnists, a man by the name of Martin Kettle.”
He then went on to quote from an article published by the conservative US news agency, Breitbart News Network, which had itself referenced The Guardian article.
“There is an article here, I just printed it off this morning,” said Rev. Campbell.
“‘As Remembrance Sunday draws near and the nation gets ready to honour our war dead, The Guardian has called for Remembrance Services and poppy wearing to be phased out, arguing that they are oppressive rituals,’” he quoted.
“Did you hear it? ‘Oppressive rituals.’ ‘Which ought to be consigned to the past. Writing in the opinion columns The Guardian’s associate editor, Martin Kettle, has said he looks forward to a time when Remembrance day is no longer celebrated.’ Isn’t that terrible?
“Isn’t that just like dancing on the graves of the brave soldiers who died in the wars? I think that’s terrible. I think that’s awful.”