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Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Remembering well

Remembrance Day in Australia has been just about lost to public view given the focus on Anzac Day.

The War Memorial Web site has a helpful account of the history of Remembrance Day and suggests that we take a minutes silence at 11am on 11 November to " remember those who died or suffered for Australia's cause in all wars and armed conflicts."

This raises a good question about remembering. Christians are called to remember and to re-member Jesus, as we do in coming to share a meal together, who refused to use violence to bring in God's kingdom. How should Christians remember war? This is an important issue for Christians in Australia given the emergence of Anzac Day as the manifestation of a form of civil religion.

Ekklesia in the UK have just produced a very useful report Reimagining Remembrance Day that though it adresses the specific issues related to Remembrance Day in the UK provides some useful theological insights that are relevant to the task of how christians might remember Anzac Day.

Some of the issues that churches could address include:

• A greater equality in remembrance to incorporate all those affected by war, including those on both sides and civilians, conscientious objectors, and those executed for ‘cowardice’
• The language used in remembrance should be more truthful. Words like ‘glorious’ should no longer be used. There should also be an acknowledgement that some did “die in vain” and an end to automatic references about all soldiers giving “their lives for the freedom we enjoy today”.
• Churches should resist the misappropriation of religious language in remembrance. Where it is used it should be qualified carefully, particularly with regard to words like “sacrifice”, which should not be used to condone violence.
• Following other examples from around the world a far greater commitment should be made to peace
• Churches that have bishops and chaplains to the armed forces, should also provide them for the “unarmed forces”, those who work as peacemakers and peacebuilders without weapons
• Remembrance should encompass groups who are often excluded. The environmental impact of war, including ecological damage and millions of animals slaughtered should also be more widely acknowledged

• There should be an end to ‘selective remembrance’ where the more shameful aspects of war are forgotten Ekklesia

Churches who seriously took up this agenda would find themselves in conflict with the RSL in short order. This might be no bad thing as there are serious issues of theological integrity at stake here for the churches. It would also make clear that we have reached an end of the Christendom settlement and any automatic alignment of church and nation.

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