Wednesday, November 12, 2008

REMEMBRANCE DAY - 90 years on

Like many clergy of all traditions, I accepted an invitation to speak at a Remembrance Day service yesterday. This was out of the city, up in the Gold Coast hinterland in the small but growing town of Upper Coomera. The service was in the open air at the town's war memorial.

Here, as in every city and town throughout Australia, a diverse group of people met to remember those members of our armed forces who laid down their lives in the defence of our country and our allies. Present were veterans and their spouses, children from the local school, representatives of government and the police, and those whose families have lost loved ones on the battlefield (including the family of a young soldier killed in Iraq last year).

It was low-key and slightly understated as such services tend to be in Australia. I was able to speak about the impact of World War 1 on Australian society, and the significance of Armistice Day ninety years ago, reflecting on the paradox that war simultaneously brings out the worst and the best in us, especially the great courage and selflessness for which members of the Australian armed forces have become justly famous. I finished with the observation that it takes no less courage to learn how to forgive and move beyond the differences we have with others, especially when from our point of view they have been clearly in the wrong . . . observing that in Australia after World War 2 many returned soldiers, air force and naval personnel actually led the community at large in building bridges with our former enemies - especially the Japanese. Finally we thought about how the courage to forgive and move on translates into our daily lives if we are to make our local communities worthy of those men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. That's something that each of us needs to keep working on!

I hope you like the painting at the top of this post. It is La Messe en Foret d'Argonne by Henri Gervex (1915).


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