Wednesday, 2 June 2021



June 2021

Dear Friends

“A meticulous, soaring and beautifully written account of an extraordinary life.”  That’s from the blurb on the book I’ve just been reading, ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand.  The book was every bit as good as the blurb suggests.  Published in 2010 (and since made into a film directed by Angelina Jolie) it tells the true story of Italian American Louie Zamperini, a runner at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, as he becomes a bombardier with the Army Air Forces during World War II.  When his plane crashes into the Pacific Ocean in 1943 he drifts on a life raft for 47 days before being captured by the Japanese.  Cruelly tortured, starved and beaten for more than 2 years until the war ends, he remains unbroken.  But when Louie finally returns home it is his constant nightmares and out-of-control anger and drinking that nearly destroys him and those he loves.

The book details the shockingly cruel treatment of Prisoners of War by many, though not all, of their Japanese captors.  By contrast the treatment of PoWs by the Americans led one Japanese veteran to refer to his experience as ‘lucky prison life’.  When this man returned home to Japan and learned what his Allied counterparts had endured in a camp in his own village, he was horrified.

What accounts for the difference in behaviour between these two peoples?  Certainly not an inherent moral distinction – what a terrible thought – but, I suggest, the fact that one culture had been deeply influenced over centuries by the account of an extraordinary man who attacked and denounced evil while longing for people to turn away from their wrong and to be made new; a man who could accept terrible suffering while praying for his tormentors, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."  (Luke 23:34)

The message of forgiveness through Christ is one that many Japanese have come to accept, not least because men like Louie Zamperini later went back to Japan to offer his own forgiveness and the forgiveness of Christ.  And, sadly, it’s a message that many Americans (and Brits) have now come to see as something alien and unnecessary.  Laura Hillenbrand has written the kind of startling book that might wake us up to what we have lost.


Graham Burrows

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.