Janet`s August letter to the Community

Janet’s Letter to the Community


I have recently returned from a short holiday in Prague.  It is a beautiful city with a fascinating history and I greatly enjoyed my visit.  But it was the more recent history that I found particularly compelling.  This year marks the 30th anniversary of the end of Soviet dominance over much of Eastern Europe.  My hostess, a Hussite Minister (look it up!), described a little of what it was like to live under hostile occupation.  She spoke of how difficult it was to trust anybody, and how it felt to be denied education, or to have your career blocked, because you were a practising Christian and would not join the Communist Party.  There was a sense of hopelessness and of helplessness that pervaded all aspects of life.  Walking along the street, everybody was looking at the ground, people did not have the trust or the energy to look up and out at other people and at the physical beauty around them.


Bringing that regime to an end required enormous courage.  A first large student demonstration on 17th November 1989 was violently suppressed by riot police.  But the following days saw, not a retreat but even larger demonstrations involving both students and older people.  On the 20th November an estimated half a million people gathered to protest as the movement gathered momentum, leading to a general strike.  And just a few weeks later, a non-Communist government was formed.  The people of what was then Czechoslovakia had had to work for their freedom.


We in the UK are so very fortunate not to have been invaded since 1066 – well outside memory!  While there have been very difficult times in our history, and while our system is certainly not perfect, there is an underlying respect for freedom and for human rights, which is very precious.  Do we truly appreciate what an enormous gift this is?  Do we use our freedom gratefully, courageously and generously for the good of society as well as for ourselves?  The New Testament reading for the Sunday I was in Prague came from St Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, chapter 5, and included the words: “You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become servants of one another.”  A challenge for the Christians of the Czech Republic still learning to live with their freedom, but also a challenge for us.

With every blessing,


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