Anzac Day Reflection by Fr Claude Mostowik – Marrickville Peace Park
Reflection by Father Claude Mostowik msc
Listening to the news, it would seem that religion is more often used as a pretext for violence than peace. But, the Scriptures and our faith traditions contain a strong mandate for compassion and peace. Together they offer a radical reshaping of human relations if we accept them.
Recently when US Tomahawk missiles attacked Syria, the media cheered. One MSBC reporter said, “We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean.” We need to let that sink in. Beautiful? In what way can a missile attack be called beautiful? How can anything be called beautiful when connected to war and violence, to the deaths of people in relationship, people with faces? This was not the first time the media applauded the destruction of life in the Middle East.
Let’s not forget the lies that drove into war on Iraq. The media might as well have thrown a parade. And when we don’t see applause, we often see nothing. This is the case with Yemen, which has endured, and continues to endure, so much destruction in the wake of US-supported Saudi bombings. A Yemeni child dies every 10 minutes from malnutrition. This is the result of bombs like the ones that MSBC reporter, Brian Williams, called ‘beautiful’—children starving to death, children dying from falling bombs and missiles. This is the news we are not being shown but is the news the world deserves to see. When we know the story, we can begin to change the story. We can tell the media that they must be covering the humanitarian crises in Yemen rather than wax poetic about the beauty of Tomahawk missiles. They should in the USA, and in our country, be calling for budgets that support children, education, and the environment over military spending, bombs and war.
The media is the voice of our culture and we can use our own voices to help shape their message. We can show them what beauty is. The beauty of people coming together to demand truth and justice and fairness and peace. The beauty of resistance.
ANZAC Day is a day in which we as Australians and New Zealanders can acknowledge the wounds deep in our countries and acknowledge the failure of war. But let’s not forget that this must include those who like the Irish, French and Indians who also fought at Gallipoli as well as the Turkish soldiers who defended their country – and who had never posed any threat to us.
A day such as today glosses over many anomalies. We commemorate but do we remember what our alliances have meant for ourselves and other people. Our leaders try to instill fear in us and the need for security which is often tenuous. We must refuse to listen to different voices to those who would make us more fearful and less than we can be in acting justly and loving tenderly. We need to listen to different voices. Listen to those who dare us to care, to open our arms out to a world desperate for compassion and healing. We can be more. How we are in the world, to be present and recognise the struggle and pain of people around us.
What do we hear and see on this ANZAC Day? Fear has been instilled in people around the world that led them to support war and seek greater security. If anything, on this day, as the drums of global war are beating louder without apparent opposition. One would think that this is the time to reflect on the sheer wastefulness of armed conflict but also on the alliances that lead us to war in 1914, 1945, 2003, and the possibilities again in our alliance with the USA. One would think that might be the perfect time to reflect on the sheer wastefulness of armed conflict
Christians have just celebrated Easter and we are still in the Easter season. Easter means many things but above all it is about life and doing things differently. Let us try to do things differently. ANZAC Day should be a call for us to remember and invite us to do things differently – to work to build a culture of peace. As we do that, we must not just remember those who died overseas allegedly to defend this country, but the First Peoples who paid in blood to defend their lands, this land that we stand, from invasion.
The contemporary focus on this sacred day is changing from an inherent opposition to militarism since the 1920’s to a sudden reinvigoration of ANZAC which seems to contribute to a new militarism and nationalism. ANZAC Day means different things to different people but we must also recognise that we are all part of ‘the dark ecosystem of violence’ – whether towards Aboriginal people, refugees, asylum seekers, the Earth or peoples we have never met. ANZAC Day should remind us and call us to do life differently.
For those who follow the teachings of Jesus, we hear a call to listen to his voice and ‘try it my way’ in the face of hurt, suffering, violence, etc… try it my way with nonviolence, with forgiveness, with compassion and generosity. ‘Try it my way’ so that you do not become like the one you might consider the enemy. He showed us that we transform the world through the power of love – not through violence, not through war, not through killing.
Too often the churches have through the centuries rejected or ignored Jesus’ teaching. They have made a pact in history with forces that promoted violence. Are these not a betrayal of the one who stands amongst us as the representative of the God of nonviolence? They also fail to denounce what is happening in this country: invasion of another country; the moral credence given to war; racism, sexism, corporate greed; obscene accumulation of property and wealth.
There is hope. War and violence are human problems. They can be changed because we have created them. They begin in the sanctuary of our heart. And humanity can change, not by force or threat, but by creating safe places to be heard and to hear and accept others’ rights to their own point of view. Peace is possible – whether with our neighbour or beyond. It has to constantly worked at. It is happening in Gaza, Palestine and Israel, in Afghanistan. In Australia and beyond.
There is another form of patriotism: to the planet and humanity. The really fundamental changes in history have not come by government dictate, or battles, but groups of people taking little steps and sometimes doing it in response to Jesus’ words ‘try it my way.’
On this Anzac day, any alternative to war, any act of peace, however small, is a tribute to those who have died for this country.
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Resolutions: Father Claude Mostowik msc
Introduction: Let us desire and work so that leaders of nations promote the freedom and dignity of their people, and place justice and quality of life above wealth and power,
- That we may value all life on earth, seek greater understanding and solidarity among people and languages, and be at peace and friendship with all.
- That people in religious and political leadership continually proclaim the good news of peace and justice without fear or compromise.
- That the people of Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand on this ANZAC Day remember who those who have died in war, may remember all who have died in all wars, and the people who continue to be affected by war.
- That the voices of those who speak out for peace and solidarity among people also be listened to.
- That parents, teachers and educators through their generosity and service see their work as a way of building a new human and compassionate society.
- That the people living in places of war and conflict may see that vengeance produces more violence, trauma and greater insecurity.
- For all people, known and unknown, who witness for peace and reconciliation in conflict situations: may they not be disheartened when ridiculed by political leaders for their stand.
Conclusion: Let us give thanks for the lives of all prophets, teachers, healers and revolutionaries, living and dead, acclaimed or obscure, who have rebelled, worked and suffered for the cause of love and joy. We also celebrate that part of us, that part within ourselves, which has rebelled, worked and suffered for the cause of love and joy. Amen.