19 August 2019
ANZAC DAWN REFLECTION
Each year, for a number of years I have been asked to participate in the Anzac services in our community.
The Dawn service at Manukau Memorial Gardens is moving. In the darkness, cars flow through the cemetery gates, for once outnumbering those speeding to the airport. Some Anzac mornings as we have stood at the flagpole, the shadows moving among the gravestones in the mist, form into recognisable faces, as they silently take their places. The shout of the parade sergeant is heard then a soft tramping of feet with the increasing crowd, waiting in silence.
This year, hundreds came, silently, before dawn, Young and old, all races, all faiths, politicians, local leaders, representatives of the Sikhs who fought at Gallipoli, of the Indian army, from the Pacific Islands, and some who were enemies in other wars and times, gathered as one people, from our diverse community of Papatoetoe, Mangere and South Auckland, to remember the past, honour those who died and to pray for peace for the future.
It was a dark clear night with no mist, as we met to remember, not the glory of war — you can’t do that when it is the centenary of a massive defeat and a futile action that ripped the heart out of our fledgling nation at Gallipoli - but to remember them and give thanks for their service.
As the reveille sounded, with its notes of hope, dawn broke, clear and bright, much like that Anzac morning 100 years ago.
Before dawn, George Bollinger's diary of the Gallipoli landing spoke to us from the past, as he describes the movement from almost a holiday adventure to horror and disaster in three short days,
“Sunday 25th April The day is beautifully fine. We are steaming full speed, close to the southern shores of Gallipoli.
Monday 26th April On shore in the thick of it. Stray bullets were landing around us and suddenly Private Tohill who was standing just in front of me dropped with a bullet through his shoulder. Immediately after, Private Swayne was shot in the forehead. The Australians were frightfully cut about effecting a landing yesterday. They say there are at least 6000 casualties. In landing as many as 49 were killed in one boat and a whole regiment was practically wiped out. The din and roar and whistle of the missiles is awful. As we sit here the ambulance are passing with wounded on the stretchers. 5.00 pm.
Tuesday 27th April. At 10.00 am we were marched north along the beach, and as we got under heights we met crowds of wounded coming down. Oh how callous one gets. Word came for Hawkes Bay and Wellington-West Coast Companies to reinforce at the double, as our fellows were getting massacred. We threw off packs and forgot everything in that climb up the cliffs. We fixed bayonets on reaching top and got into it. The country is terribly hilly and covered with scrub from four to five feet high. On we rushed against a rain of bullets and our men began to drop over, before they fired a shot. We started to get mixed and were everywhere amongst the Australians. Our men were dropping in hundreds.
Wednesday 28th April We were relieved about 8 o'clock. Mostly our nerves were gone. Our casualties were very heavy. We manned the trenches again at 6 o'clock. No sleep and nothing to eat, just a craving for drink, and the wounded always empty our bottles. “
Every year I wonder why am I doing this as a Christian minister following in the footsteps of the Prince of peace, Jesus of Nazareth. Every year I pray we have the courage to confront evil and value justice which is for everyone and admit our failure to love one another. Every year, I pray for the lasting peace in which men and women and communities thrive and for which those who went to war hoped to achieve.
There is a dilemma — we all know that.
We cannot see the vulnerable trodden on, the weak oppressed when we have the power to do something. When we challenge those who do so there will inevitably be conflict.
We are actually praying for a revolution which changes human hearts to seek God and find the even more costly way which Jesus invites us to live, of loving one another. So we must not forget the horror and the bravery, the cost of the peace we have so we will learn new ways to seek lasting peace and leave violence behind us.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said “Were it not for the fact that [Jesus] is in title Prince of Peace, and lived out his mission in service and foot-washing, ending it in crucifixion and resurrection, this would be a call to violent revolution; but even that option is removed from our hands by the way in which he lived his life and calling.”
That is our challenge as we live in our community in the name of Jesus as peace makers and bringers of new life.
May God bless you all with wisdom and love
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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