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Fifty Years Ago


Mike Claridge - Octoberl 2012

Roundabout - October 2012

St Andrew's, West Bromwich

If things had worked out differently fifty years ago this month, none of us would have been here!

October sees the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Over six days in October 1962 the world was taken to the very brink of nuclear war. The Soviet Union (USSR) had stationed nuclear weapons in Cuba, within striking range of the USA. In response the USA considered a number of options, from a full invasion of Cuba to the bombing of the missile sites. On 22nd October the USA imposed a sea and air blockade of Cuba, which was in itself an act of war in international law. The USSR responded that the blockade threatened nuclear conflagration.

Nuclear war was avoided because a “back line” of communication had been established allowing the Presidents of the USA and USSR to negotiate a more constructively than the public posturing and military build up outwardly allowed. After six tense days the USSR started to remove missiles from Cuba in response to the USA removing theirs from Italy and Turkey. The immediate crisis was over but the “Cold War”, with the ever present threat of nuclear conflict, would last for another thirty years. If nuclear conflict had resulted it’s estimated that 100 million would have died in the USA, the same in the USSR and a similar number in western Europe including the UK.

If you visit the excellent RAF Museum at Cosford you can view a “Museum of the Cold War”. It takes the story from the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 right through to the collapse of the USSR in 1991. It’s somewhat unnerving to see as museum exhibits items that you remember from your childhood. It’s staggering now to look back and see how the tension of those three decades shaped everything from aircraft design to board games, from Civil Defence Planning to pop music.

Conflict occurs not just between countries but also in workplaces, schools, families and even in churches. It’s easy to adopt a defensive or overtly aggressive stance when we are caught up in it. If we can learn one thing from the anniversary that falls this month it’s that posturing or shows of might and strength don’t resolve conflicts. The world was saved from nuclear annihilation because of dialogue, negotiation and a will to compromise.

Christians are called to be bridge builders, both in their own lives and in the lives of others where appropriate. Conflict resolution is a skill that we all need in life. Divisions are constantly being resolved in the relationships between parents and children, husbands and wives, employers and employees.

God’s conversation with us was to come in the person of Jesus Christ, a dialogue that has “broken down the divisions between ourselves” (Ephesians 2 .14)