Practically every nation, people and/or culture on earth have pivotal moment/s in their history that bind them together; moments that provide them with a shared identity. Some of those moments are self-evident and some require reflection or discernment of some sort to understand.
For the Australian and New Zealand communities, the Anzac story is one such gigantic story despite the victories, pain and sadly, the enormous loss of life. In fact, it is that loss of human life that makes us all sit back and ask ourselves some big questions: Why, and what have we learnt?
The Anzacs had a great conviction and commitment to the preservation of life and in keeping the Australian and New Zealand borders safe from the reckless violence of World War I, World War II and in recent decades, other wars and conflicts that threaten the Australian and New Zealand way of life and the freedoms of its people. The Anzacs fought so that there might be peace and freedom in our countries. Ironically, their own peace and freedom of life was compromised and sadly, prematurely taken away from many of them. To me, that is the ultimate sign of one’s love for his or her people. A love that impels you to put your own life in danger so that another might live. We perhaps see that too in our daily lives. We witness our security agents and Police Officers walk into dangerous situations to eliminate threats or minimise damage to human life like in recent terrorist events that have rocked our world – mind you, we are still to overcome such senseless acts. In these events, it is clear that terrorists and their abhorrent acts do not win, rather it is the bravery of those who stand against them and defend the rights, freedoms and lives of others. I can’t help but think that such was the spirit of the Anzacs whose names remain immortalised in our hearts and lives – as we proclaim at war memorials and remembrance days: ‘… Lest We Forget …’ Every time we count how blessed our nation is, we remember that we owe it to those who paid the ultimate price – those who gave their lives, so that this generation and generations to come might appreciate the gift of peace and freedom of every man and woman; young and not so young alike.
In a Christian context, Jesus remains the ideal example of such sacrificial love as taught by His Gospel. It is a beautiful coincidence that Anzac Day is marked around Easter time when we celebrate victory over suffering, pain and death. It was not the hideous acts of His tormentors that mattered but His submission to His Father’s Will and His pure love for us. I am truly convinced that there is an Easter element in the Anzac story and for that we must be forever grateful.
I pray and hope every day; and so I believe all men and women of good will do, that there will be no more wars and no more acts of terrorism or violence anywhere in the world. Perhaps that is overly ambitious! But I pray that in reflecting on the Easter message and on the sacrifice of the Anzacs, we can all value and cherish the gift of life, peace and freedom for all people; civil, religious and cultural.
Praise be Jesus Christ our Risen Lord!