I RECENTLY attended a community memorial service at the Giffnock Synagogue in my role as Provost of East Renfrewshire Council.

This gave me the opportunity to pay respects to the American citizens murdered at the Etz Chaim Tree of Life Synagogue, in Pittsburgh, USA.

I was accompanied by other councillors, including council leader Tony Buchanan and deputy leader Paul O’Kane.

The gun attack, specifically targeting Jewish citizens worshipping in their Synagogue, had a profound effect on our local Jewish community and I was glad to be able to attend an event to underline that such attacks on innocent people are an attack on us all, irrespective of our religious beliefs.

The communal service was attended by a host of local civic dignitaries and religious leaders from the many faiths we have in our area, both Christian and non-Christian, and we were all able to contribute to the healing process, albeit in a small way.

The council held a minute’s silence in respect of those murdered by the gunman and I have written to the Mayor of Pittsburgh to express the condolences of the people of East Renfrewshire.

The need for healing and reconciliation made me think of the various remembrance ceremonies which are important parts of our lives at this time of year.

Remembrance is particularly poignant this year as we remember the end of the First World War – a conflict which claimed such a terrible death toll and bankrupted the nation.

It is right and proper that we remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice in that awful war but I think it is also important to reflect on the aftermath and, indeed, whether the peace was won as well as we would have liked.

The Versailles Agreement did not deliver the war reparations that the Allies sought and led directly to the rise of Hitler and Fascism in Germany.

The newly-created League of Nations, accepted by all as an excellent idea, did not prevent the rise of aggressive militarism in Europe and Japan.

As we all know, the Second World War broke out barely 20 years after the end of the First World War (which was supposed to have been ‘a war to end all wars’), with an even heavier worldwide death toll of soldiers and civilians. Indeed, that war spawned previously unimagined horrors, such as the Nazi concentration camps.

Even today, with smaller wars such as we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are good at winning the military side of things but less good at delivering the much-needed long-term peace and stability in those countries.

Perhaps, as we remember the fallen in this most significant year, we should spare a little time to reflect on how we can win the peace, should we ever be involved in any future armed conflicts.

My former council colleague Douglas Yates has organised a debate on the consequences of the First World War, with pupils of both St Luke’s High and Barrhead High invited to take part, through the auspices of the Interfaith Council and Barrhead Rotary Club.

I am looking forward to attending this event and I have no doubt our talented local youngsters will have researched the topic in depth.

I am anticipating an excellent evening as pupils from both schools engage in a lively debate.