The middle years of this decade, 2005-2007, see the 350th anniversary of three very significant episodes in the history of political and religious liberty:
- The English intervention in the Principality of Savoy-Piedmont (the forerunner of modern Italy) to halt persecution of the Waldenses––arguably the first humanitarian intervention in history;
- The readmission of the Jews into England after nearly four centuries in which their presence had been illegal; and
- The rule of the Major-Generals in England—the only time in history that an English-speaking people has been governed by an out-and-out military dictatorship.
These episodes are of more than merely historical interest, for they illustrate a tendency that is still alive and well today. […]
The 350th anniversary of Cromwell’s intervention was marked by a special service of thanksgiving in London, organized jointly by the modern Waldense community in Italy, the English Committee of the Waldensian Church Mission, and the Cromwell Association. The prayers were led by Pastor Claudio Pasquet, traditional hymns were sung by the Youth Choir of the churches of Val Pellice (one of the traditional Vaudois valleys), and the Italian state, the successor to Savoy-Piedmont, was represented by Senator Lucio Malan—appropriately himself a Waldense and, like Pastor Pasquet, descended from those slaughtered in the “Bloody Easter” of 1655. It was fitting that the service concluded with them laying bouquets of heather, picked on the slopes of Val Pellice, underneath the statue of Cromwell outside the British Houses of Parliament.
What is there to learn from the events of 1655? I put this question to Senator Malan after the service of commemoration, and he felt it showed that “the precious and fragile values of our open, tolerant democratic society must never be taken for granted.”