This month we highlight the lives of several brave Christians who stood up for their faith as they best knew how during the Great War. Yet, as we pause to mark the sacrifice made 100 years ago, we continue to hear of the present-day horrors of warfare. Iraq is spiralling into one of its worst periods of ethnic and religious bloodshed yet (see News, p8). What was already a dangerous situation for Iraqi Christians has now become a disaster for its population at large. The overlooked and harrowing story of the Christian community in Al-Doura also features in this month’s magazine.  

Removed by thousands of miles from these conflicts, it’s possible for Westerners to watch the news almost as though it’s a fictional movie drama. It’s happening to someone else, somewhere else. Even when we are moved, we usually feel impotent to do anything except pray (and usually rather feebly, in my case). Is there an answer? If so, it’s hard to imagine what it might be.  

It’s also hard to make sense of why God allows parts of the world to descend into chaos and conflict while other people can be enjoying life, liberty and a relatively carefree British summer. I don’t claim there is an easy answer to that question either, but perhaps the words of humanitarian activist Baroness Caroline Cox go some way to helping us make sense of a world that contains both dark conflict and flashes of extraordinary beauty.

Cox has sat and wept in refugee camps decimated by massacres. She has also joined in the hopeful songs of Christians praising God in the midst of persecution, whose faith she describes as ‘radiant’. ‘When they worship, they worship in more joy than in many a comfortable church here in our comfortable Christian West,’ she says.

Joy has a habit of surprising us even in the darkest places. And that alone may be enough to fire our prayers with hope for the future.

PS This month we bid a fond farewell to deputy editor Lucinda Borkett-Jones, who is moving on to pastures new. We thank her for the tremendous contribution she has made to the magazine over the past year.