I long remember the sinking of the Argentine battleship, Belgrano. It happened thirty years ago, but for me and many others, it is still so vivid.
As the Falkland / Malvinas Islands War unfolded I meet with Argentine friends in central Buenos Aires. News of the war was passed earnestly, one to another. “What were the English doing? Were the Argentine army, navy and air force really prepared? What news was there of soldiers, family and friends, who were involved in the war? Would the United States come out in support of Argentina? [Our generals had visited there!]”
On May 3rd 1982 a dear friend rushed in to the bookshop, “Had we heard the terrible news? The battleship Belgrano had been sunk and the English planes had machine gunned the sailors in the life boats!”
We wept, held each other in the despair of knowing war was indeed upon us: people were dying and there was little pity in war. And yet, the English who the Argentine’s respected in so many ways . . . Could they really be doing this machine gunning of life boats?
Late that night with the TV blaring out a local Argentine program in the front of the house, my wife and I tuned in to the BBC radio broadcast and heard a somewhat different version. Yes, the Belgrano had been torpedoed and sunk. However, there was no news of surviving sailors being fired upon. And yet, what was true? With heavy hearts we recalled, “truth is the first casualty of war”.
It was hard living in two worlds of misinformation: loneliness, frustration at not knowing which version, Argentine or BBC, had fewer lies or less patriotism. For us, living in Argentina, it was impossible to bring the English news to temper the Argentine news. Yet, what of this news would be true? To speak for peace was to speak as an enemy. In Argentina, Argentine victory was all that mattered. English people were to recount to us, in the years following the war, that this was also true in the UK.
The war was a bewildering, angry, anxious and intense time. Australians had been advised by their Embassy to leave Argentina for their own safety. But leaving our friends and brothers and sisters in Christ whose invitation had brought us to share life and ministry would undermine all that we had worked so hard to achieve. Please, Dear God: make it possible for us to stay.
Our desire for peace grew and grew as did our desire for truth and grace.
Read of the Belgrano’s sinking, Thirty years on, Argentine survivors of the Belgrano sinking recall the moment Falklands war erupted around them and continue to pray for the peace of the city where I have sent you. Jeremiah 29:7
Make your ways known upon earth, Lord God,
your saving power among all peoples.
Renew your Church in holiness
and help us to serve you with joy.
Guide the leaders of all nations,
that justice may prevail throughout the world.
Let not the needy be forgotten,
nor the hope of the poor be taken away.
Make us instruments of your peace
and let your glory be over all the earth. Amen.
PS The following news does not make for peace, Argentina airs Olympics advert of athletes in Falklands on Belgrano anniversary