Keeping memory alive, that is the legacy of the ANZAC spirit. It has become especially important as we continue to recall the centenary events of World War I, a war that brought profound suffering and great slaughter to the countries of Europe and their allies on both sides.
As we have been ever aware during the commemoration of World War I, the events on the Western Front were so grotesque as to be unimaginable. For example during the first days on the Somme, row upon row of soldiers were ordered out of the trenches into withering machine gun fire. Amongst the trenches and the mud and the blood of ‘no man’s land’ dead bodies piled up like walls that had to be climbed over by the next wave of troops.
The experience of the 20th century has shown that the ‘war to end all wars’ did no such thing. It had the opposite effect. Wars have proliferated. Weapons have ever more power and reach, and the once outlawed “collateral damage”, meaning attacks on civilians, now seems to be a matter of course.
Sadly the effects of 1914-18 reach right into our time as daily reports of ‘terrorist’ attacks signal the response of many to their suffering, which is coupled with their frustration at the denial of their hopes for justice; feelings that often have their source in events that are decades, or even centuries old.
At 11am this ANZAC Day an ecumenical service will be held in the heart of Melbourne at St Paul’s Cathedral at which attendees will lament the losses of war and pray for peace and an end to war. They will renew their pledge to be peacemakers and continue to resist the pervasive power of militarism in our nation and in the world.
This service is taking place because an Ecumenical ANZAC Service Group believes it is time to graft a new narrative onto the vine of ANZAC. A narrative that recognises the truth of the past – the bravery, the suffering, the losses and the grief – but does not stop there. A narrative that seeks to build a new story that learns from the past, and genuinely commits to turning swords into ploughshares, exchanging death and destruction for life and wellbeing, justice and peace for all God’s people.
The Ecumenical Service of Lament, Repentance and Hope for the Centenary of the First World War is sponsored by St Paul’s Cathedral and Pax Christi Australia, the Victorian Council of Churches, the Uniting Church in Australia, the Anglican Social Responsibilities Committee, Social Policy Connections, and the Anzac Centenary Peace Coalition.
The Ecumenical Anzac Service Group is seeking a new narrative for ANZAC Day. From within the ANZAC narrative itself there are little-publicised stories that tell of those who advocated against war as the solution to the problems facing the world. Brave women and men who resisted the conscription of soldiers but who also gave their service to minister to the suffering and dying.
In the age of global terrorism, it may seem impossible to advocate for pacifism. But it is militarism, and the greed that fuels it, that has brought us to this point.
The time has come for us to make a concerted effort to find a new approach. Seeking a new way of remembering does not mean foregoing our cenotaphs and stained glass windows.
Rather it is to dig deeper into our traditions of faith and hope and memory that can empower us to live in new ways, as active citizens joined in movements to rid the world of war, looking for the day when ‘never again’ will be a real possibility.
Wes Campbell, for the Ecumenical ANZAC Service Group, Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania. This article was first published in Crosslight.
Sydney Anzac Ceremonies
ANZAC Day March – Sydney City Centre
Sydney’s ANZAC Day March gives participating veterans and the general public an opportunity to honour those who served in the defence of Australia or its interests, especially remembering those who paid the supreme sacrifice or otherwise suffered as a result of their service.
The Order of March will be WWII veterans followed by Navy/Army/Air Force (in conflict order), civilians in support of Australian Troops, descendants of Australian veterans, Commonwealth and allies.
The ANZAC Day March begins at 9am at the intersection of Martin Place and Elizabeth Street. It travels down Elizabeth Street and finishes at the end of Hyde Park at Liverpool Street.
Commemoration Service – Sydney City Centre
The ANZAC Commemoration Service is held at the ANZAC Memorial, Hyde Park, adjacent to the Pool of Remembrance, commencing at 12.30pm.
ANZAC Sunset Service Ceremony – Sydney City Centre
This ceremony will start at the Cenotaph, Martin Place, at 5.00pm.
It will be a short service accompanied by the NSW Ambulance Service Band and followed by the lowering of the flags. It brings to a conclusion the official ANZAC Day Commemorations in Sydney.