It was a very moving occasion to honour the 100th anniversary of ANZAC day in London, by leading the prayers and reflections at Hyde park in the early dawn, just in front of the Wellington Victory Arch. Princess Anne represented the Royal Family who, with up to 7,000 others, rose before 4:00a.m. to join the service and the laying of wreaths.
The ANZAC tradition comes from the joint courage and solidarity of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps as they stormed the heights of the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey during World War One. The conflict was deeply tragic for both sides with huge loss of life. It was the first time both countries had been sent overseas in this kind of international theatre of war, and the first time that they worked together so closely as relatively new nations, forming a bond that has never grown old. Gallipoli was a bloodstained rite of passage for these nations. Today the ANZAC observance remembers the dead of both sides. At Gallipoli the great words of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk are honoured. The Turkish leader paid tribute to the allied dead in the most moving of terms:
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives ... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours ... You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
From a New Zealand perspective there are words which I share below, as a reminder of the humanity that we all share and that God calls us to live into and live out, even when we are at enmity, and in conflict. A parable of hope for us all.
These words “Gallipoli Peninsula” were written by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell.
It was magical when flowers
appeared on the upper reaches-
not that we saw much of the upper reaches.
But when we did,
we were reminded of home
when spring clothed the hills with flowers.
The dead lying among them
seemed to be asleep.
I can never forget the early mornings,
before the killings started up,
when the sea was like a mirror
under little wisps of cloud
breathing on its surface, so dazzling
it hurt the eye.
and the ships so many of them,
they darkened the sea.
But the evenings too were magical,
with such hues in the sky
so many colours, gold bars,
green, red , and yellow.
We noticed these things,
when the firing stopped and we had respite.
It was good to feel,
during such moments.
that we were human beings once more,
delighting in the little things,
in just being human.
(from “Gallipoli and other Poems”, Wai-te-ata Press, 1999)
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