November 11 is Remembrance Day. On Remembrance Day, citizens of Australia and New Zealand pause for a minute’s silence at 11am to remember members of our armed forces who have died in the line of duty.
Remembrance Day has its origins in World War 1. It was originally called Armistice Day after the armistice (the agreement to stop fighting) that ended World War 1. Ninety-nine years ago at 11am Paris time on the morning of Monday 11 November 1918, an armistice signed earlier that morning between Allied and German leaders came into effect. The guns on the Western Front in Europe fell silent. More than four years of terrible suffering had resulted in nine to 13 million deaths, including nearly 80,000 ANZACs. Many, many more bore wounds that would afflict them for the rest of their often shortened lives.
Since then, thousands more young Australians and New Zealanders, and millions of people from other countries have been killed or damaged in wars. In our fallen world, war is ever present.
Even if we do accept the moral principle of a ‘just war’, which not all do, war itself is always evil and a sign of humanity’s fall into sin. The enmity and hatred, extensive destruction of life and property, terrible and widespread suffering and grief, and damage to God’s creation drive us to sorrow and repentance. Even the many great wartime acts of courage, compassion and selflessness of both soldiers and civilians cannot redress the overall damage done by war.
So on Remembrance Day, while grateful for the freedoms we enjoy, we nevertheless mourn the loss of life and reflect on the price paid by the dead, the wounded, their families and all parties involved. The words “Lest we forget”, which we hear on both Remembrance Day and ANZAC Day, remind us that knowing and reflecting on our history can help us avoid repeating the errors of the past. Christians observing this Day will pray for peace, for those suffering the curse of war, and for those who mourn loved ones. We pray for our society, that it may know a time when war is no more, and all people will live equally in prosperity and peace, free to love and serve God with all their being.
This Remembrance Day let us:
- pray for our national leaders who make decisions about deploying our armed service people and joining wars, that they appreciate the gravity of their responsibility and make wise, prayerful and informed decisions;
- remember and give thanks for people who volunteer to put themselves in danger on our behalf and for the greater good;
- pray for efforts to prevent conflict and deal with disagreements non-violently;
- pray for efforts to bring about just and lasting peace in places of conflict;
- pray for ethical conduct in war and grieve the wickedness of war that targets not just enemy soldiers and military installations but civilians and civilian resources and infrastructure too;
- pray for people with the unenviable task of delivering bad news to families of those killed and injured;
- pray for people who have lost loved ones in war;
- pray for people who have been physically and mentally broken by war;
- ask forgiveness for mistreatment of fellow citizens linked by ethnic origin, language or religion with foreign forces;
- ask forgiveness for people who claim that God is on their side;
- pray for our servicemen and women currently on deployment overseas and their families at home anxiously awaiting their safe return;
- pray for our servicemen and women struggling to reintegrate into civilian life after involvement in war;
- give thanks for the long period of peace we have enjoyed in Australia and New Zealand and ask that it continue.
For further information you may like to read the LCA statement ‘War, peace and conscientious objection to service in war’ (1987) available at http://www.lca.org.au/departments/commissions/cticr. Scroll down to Doctrinal Statements and Opinions, Volume 1, H. Ethical and Social Issues.
Pastor John Henderson
Bishop, Lutheran Church of Australia
10 November 2017
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