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The Rev Duncan J Macpherson:
Presiding Officer, members of the Scottish Parliament, it is a deep honour to offer this reflection before remembrance Sunday and armistice day. It will be no surprise that those opportunities in the life of our nation and her communities to pause, reflect on the horrors of war, honour the fallen and dedicate ourselves to a better future, are significant to me, as a Church of Scotland minister who has been called to serve as an army chaplain. It has been my privilege to lead acts of remembrance in parishes and in military service in communities here, overseas and on operations. I am deeply proud that Scots, wherever they are, still wish to pause to remember who and what has formed their past, influences their present and shapes their future.
In the darkest hours and most desperate of circumstances, there are people of hope whom we can look to as examples: the Rev Donald Caske, the “Tartan Pimpernel” of the Scots Kirk in Paris in 1940, who operated an escape route for service personnel, and who was caught and interned in France and Italy; the Rev Murdo Ewen MacDonald, who was another Church of Scotland minister who volunteered to serve in North Africa, was wounded and captured, sent to Stalag Luft III, and there cared for American prisoners of war and played a part in the great escape; or even a previous moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Very Rev J Fraser McLuskey MC, who was deployed from Scotland in 1944 to parachute behind enemy lines in France with the Special Air Service, as their chaplain.
What was it about those Scots that enabled them to endure under interrogation, to live in appalling conditions, and to serve behind enemy lines facing threat and constant danger that called them to risk all in service, alongside countless thousands from Scotland and beyond? I believe that it is the same thing that keeps the armed forces serving now—hope. It is hope that we will, when called upon, make a difference for the better. Those chaplains dared to hope in darkness, because they, and I, believe in God, who offers hope in Jesus Christ, and a life that can be deeper, richer and full of a freedom that has little to do with circumstance and everything to do with community.
We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us, daring to build on their example of faith, and engendering hope that strives for a better future.