I tried to publish this text on 6th May, but something went wrong. Actually, it is more relevant this weekend, as Sunday 20th is Remembrance Sunday / Kaatuneiden muistopäivä.
The other Saturday night we had just laughed our way through Uutisvuoto (Have I got news for you) when the film Lunastus (Redemption) came on. It wasn’t exactly light entertainment for the weekend: it was grim, brutal and depressing. Still, the subject matter – the Finnish Civil War of 1917-18 – was grim, brutal and depressing. Both sides took prisoners and shot them out of hand. Ordinary people were desperately short of food. The usual rules of human behaviour seemed forgotten as the killing went on.
The main character was a Lutheran priest, who tried to remain neutral and behave according to his Christian upbringing and training. This proved extremely difficult, especially when he was left in charge of a Red prisoner. He treated the prisoner well and set him free, knowing the Whites would otherwise have simply shot him when they came to ”interrogate” him. In return the prisoner shot the priest dead, the priest representing everything he was fighting against.
The unfairness of it was what first stuck in my mind. The priest’s humane approach seemed to have been punished in the most brutal possible way. The Red’s hatred of the ”system” was as strong as ever, despite the good treatment he had received from his class enemy, and any attempt to bring about a peaceful solution through treating enemies, or potential enemies, humanely seemed doomed to failure.
Was the priest therefore wrong in not handing over the prisoner to the Whites? Then the prisoner would have been executed and the priest – a good man doing essential work as priest, teacher and even doctor in his area – would have survived to continue his good work. He also broke the law: it was his duty to hand the prisoner over.
The priest’s behaviour was in fact admirably Christian. He put another’s fate before that of his own. He loved his enemy. He was not rewarded in this life, but one is surely rewarded in the next for such behaviour, for loving one’s enemy even to the extent of giving one’s life for them. In many countries there are Christians and non-Christians forced to make such decisions amidst the chaos of war every day. The rules of how we behave as Christians (or as non-Christians) do not change, no matter how many people break them. We must do what is right.