The Expression of Regret
by Christine Lindsay
On February 20, 2013, an event took place that caused this busy writer to sit down and watch the news with avid interest.
During the last day of his three-day trip to India, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the site of a massacre. In his speech, the Prime Minister expressed his regret over an inhuman episode that occurred almost a century ago in the city of Amritsar. On a sweltering day in April 1919, British General Reginald Dyer ordered his Indian troops to train their rifles on a large group of peaceful Indian demonstrators in a dusty parcel of land called the Jallianwala Bagh, and then commanded his men to open fire.
According to British records, over three hundred Indian people were killed that day. Indian records make the number closer to one thousand. From the viewpoint of Indian people, that awful massacre in the Bagh was the bloodiest murder which the British inflicted on India during their colonial rule. That event has blighted British/Indian relationships to this day.
I listened to the news with mixed feelings. Many people in India would have preferred that David Cameron offered a full apology and not merely his regrets. Today, I am not judging whether or not the Prime Minister of England should have done more. Some could say that the atrocity of 1919 was never ordered by the British government in the first place. General Dyer had committed that act on his own accord. In addition, Winston Churchill called the event monstrous. In 1997, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth visited the memorial site and with bare head and bare feet, paying homage to those men, women and children killed that day in the Bagh.
Now don’t get me wrong—I’m proud of my British heritage, but there are times in life when as individuals—and as nations—that we must apologize, ask forgiveness, or at the very least express our regrets. It is because of my love for the Indian culture, and as a writer, that I have researched this particular massacre and felt horror over the event, and smaller scale events like it. Yet through my research, I have seen the light that came out of that time.
If you were a kid about a hundred years ago, studying a map of the world, you would have seen a majority of pink areas designated as belonging to Great Britain. In those days the sun never set on the Empire. The Empire grew when trading vessels such as those of Drake and Magellan were trying to find better routes to India—the treasure trove of spices, silks, and gold.
It was because of Britain’s search for assets and colonizing that the gospel message of Jesus Christ was shared around the world. The Lord’s plan of redemption travelled on the very same trading vessels to those lands that previously had not heard the message. Because of people from England, and other European countries, Christianity spread to the Americas, to Asia, and the Southern Hemisphere. It was Puritans from England that settled the bedrock of the United States as a Christian nation.
It was English missionaries to India, such as William Carey, who worked tirelessly to translate the Bible into Indian languages and taught Indian people to read and write their language. It was Amy Carmichael of the British Isles who built a compound to house widows and orphans. It was the American missionary family, the Scudders, and specifically Dr. Ida Scudder who built one of the greatest hospitals in South East Asia. These are only a few of those who went out to lands like India.
Sadly though, evil comes along for the ride, as in the case of the British Raj. It was also England who sent out the likes of General Dyer, the butcher of the Jallianwala Bagh. For generations afterward, Indian children shuddered at the mention of his name.
I’m not saying that an imperialistic attitude is right, or that it is God’s plan. But I do know that the loving Son of God, who died for all nations of this world, who cares about the various cultures of this world, can use any means of transport and communication to deliver His message of love. He even used the British Raj.
It is this decline of the British Raj that fascinates me and has become the era and setting of my fictional historical series—fittingly called—Twilight of the British Raj, a time of action, adventure, exotic settings, even romance. But also a time when good occurred.
Within my stories, I try to show the goodness of God during those difficult times, to show God working in the lives of people in the midst of injustice—that not all soldiers in British India thought like General Dyer, but many were Christians and tried to show love such as my hero Major Geoff Richards in Book 1 Shadowed in Silk.
In Book 2 Captured by Moonlight, I show in a small way the many missionaries—English, Indian, and American like Dr. Ida Scudder—who did their part to ease the suffering of Indian people. Book 3 Veiled at Midnight, the end of the British Raj, will be released in 2014.
Christine Lindsay writes inspirational historical novels, and she is proud of her Irish roots. Her great grandfather and grandfather worked as riveters in the Belfast shipyard, and one of the ships they helped build was the Titanic. Another ancestor served in the British Cavalry in India, seeding Christine’s long-time fascination with the British Raj and became the stimulus for her series Twilight of the British Raj, and her debut novel, Shadowed In Silk. Her current release Captured By Moonlight is Book 2 of that series. The Pacific coast of Canada, about 200 miles north of Seattle, is Christine’s home. She and her husband enjoy the empty nest, but look forward to all the noise when the kids and grandkids come home. And like a lot of writers, her cat is her chief editor.