Today is ANZAC Day and quite a few friends made the honourable effort to attend a dawn service. Therefore, let us pause to remember the fallen soldiers who gave of themselves at Gallipoli 100 years ago.
ANZAC Day is a unique national tradition. It is an event designed to commemorate our nation’s baptism of fire and first military campaign in what was then known as The Great War, which we now look back on as World War I. It should be considered a unique event because Remembrance Day on 11 November commemorates the day the fighting stopped (1918), whereas 25 April 1915 was the day fighting started at Gallipoli. It is for this very reason that our ANZAC Day national focus needs to be very careful lest we put out the incorrect view that we celebrate war.
ANZAC stands for Australia & New Zealand Army Corp, and was the body of soldiers deployed as part of the allied forces representing the then British Empire who took to the beaches of Gallipoli. The military objective was to capture Constantinople (then capital of the Ottoman Empire) and provide a new route for supplies to safely navigate the Dardanelles. Instead of being a successful and short campaign where the thought was to take the Ottoman Empire out of the war as one of Germany’s allies, the fierce resistance by the Ottoman Turks turned the battle into a stalemate where 8000 Australians ended up killed. No land was successfully one and the allied forces evacuated at the end of the year after a fruitless eight-month campaign. Both sides suffered heavy casualties.
Since World War 2, ANZAC Day now also commemorates all fallen solders from both wars. This principle was extended in recent times so that ANZAC Day honours all soldiers who have fallen during any Australian battle. In contrast, Remembrance Day commemorates all Allied soldiers who died during both World War and is not specific to any one battle, location or nationality. So, in simple terms, ANZAC day is more specific whereas Remembrance Day is more general. Interestingly, Remembrance Day was originally known as Armistice Day because it was the day and time fighting formally ceased and World War 1 drew to a close – the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
As a time of commemoration ANZAC Day has some very specific legislation guiding the days activities. For example, Victoria has legislation that prevents any sporting activity from being played before 1pm. This created controversy with the AFL pursuit of a New Zealand based game that potentially challenges the timing. Indeed, the blockbuster clash between Collingwood and Essendon was only allowed because of permission granted by the RSL Further, this topic has been debated on over the years and the recent Sydney Morning Herald opinion article by Chris Fotonopoulos highlights the disconnect in values. If we properly teach our children and future generations of the significance behind ANZAC day commemorations, would they really feel inclined to then play or watch football in the afternoon? If we are indeed serious about honouring the fallen who sacrificed their lives fighting for a just cause, how can one translate that into a sporting match where your opponents are your peers also doing the same.
I see and draw a parallel here with Sunday church services in general – we spend a few hours where our minds and attitude is focused on one direction only by afternoon for that to shift into a whole other mood. Nowadays we tend to box in our moods. Focusing on a cause like ANZAC or even God need not be a daily lifestyle, but attending an ANZAC dawn service or a Sunday church service should be sufficient. Now I am not advocating that we spend all our time dwelling on the ANZAC cause – just like living out a lifestyle for God, we should be able to live our lives on a daily basis having infused the ANZAC spirit into our character. Indeed the ANZAC spirit of sacrifice and service to one’s nation has a thematic relationship to Christ’s calling of sacrifice and service. However, whilst one has a military call to action, Christ’s calling is to a higher purpose in loving one another. No war can be justified according to the teachings of Jesus; the Kingdom of God would and could not be spread by sword or gun.
On this ANZAC Day centenary, let us remember and honour our soldiers who fought and gave of their lives exactly 100 years ago. Lest we forget.
To read more, visit the Australian War Memorial website.