The Rev Graham Sykes, Chaplain to the Bishop of Oxford

DURING my years as a vicar I have conducted something like 700 funerals.

Each one has been a chance to help people come to terms with and accommodate their loss. Each has been unique.

They have been for elderly people who have lived full and complete lives, for babies whose lives were counted in hours, days or months, for children, teenagers, young adults and middle-aged people.

Some have died of natural causes, some by accident and some by the deliberate acts of other human beings.

All have left family, friends and colleagues bewildered, with a deep sense of loss and in most cases a sense that this is not it.

There must be something beyond this life. That our loved ones whose bodies have died were spiritual and had another dimension to them.

The heart of the Christian faith is that God, the creator of all that is, raised Jesus from death, that we might have a sign and hope in our own resurrection.

The hardest funerals to conduct are where there is untimely death.

One funeral I conducted was for an 18-year-old soldier, a former cadet who faithfully, every Remembrance Sunday, helped me rearrange the church for the annual parade. He died in Afghanistan, the victim of two improvised explosive devices.

The first maimed him and killed others. He was trying to save his commanding officer when another took his life.

All this has been brought back to me this week as news has come over that two officers from RAF Benson, here in Oxfordshire, have lost their lives not in action, but in an unfortunate accident.

Their loss is no less painful than those other deaths and loss of other military personnel lost in action.

They died in an accident, far from home while contributing to peace keeping.

To their families they were husbands, fathers and sons – people, ordinary human beings.

It reminds me that peace can be just as costly in terms of human lives and loss as war. The pain is no less.

When I turn to the Bible I find myself once again in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says "blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the earth".

For Christians the resurrection of Jesus was an act of peacemaking.

His death became inevitable, because of violent fundamentalists.

For a real lasting peace to happen in the world there needs to be the kind of forgiveness that led God to raise his son from death rather than take revenge on his killers.

For this to happen, human beings need to come to a place of humility which accepts that we can’t always have things our own way, that there needs to be compromises and that we all get things awfully wrong at sometimes in our lives.

Peace comes at a more individual level when we face the reality that our own death is inevitable.

I have found that facing my own mortality has changed the way I live my life.

In recognising Jesus as my saviour I have allowed his teaching to change the way I am as I have tried to follow in his way.

It doesn’t mean that my life has been insulated from pain, suffering, disease or bereavement.

But it has meant that I know my life call is to work for peace in the world, peace in the lives of individuals who I meet, and to live internally at peace with God knowing that I try – though don’t always succeed – to have good reason for a clean conscience.

Our thoughts and prayers go out for the family and friends of the two officers who died and for all on the base at RAF Benson.