I watched this year’s Armistice Day commemorations with a sense of comfort in the capacity of humankind to unify in remembrance of one of our world’s most catastrophic wars. The ceremonies conducted across Europe provided a poignant symbol of the need to reflect upon the consequences of division, inequality and prejudice, and it was encouraging to see countless examples of world leaders setting aside petty differences to acknowledge the human cost.
Of course the number of people that died was mind-bogglingly horrific, but it is easy to feel a little disconnected from the relevance and devastating effect of events that happened one hundred years ago. However, Adele and I attended the Armistice Day service at our local church and the deeply personal impact of the war was reinforced when the names of all those from our community who had died in the cause of a free and democratic Europe were read out; family names that we know well. Many of the dead were younger than our kids.
I applaud our Prime Minister for inviting the German President to lay a wreath at the cenotaph, and for involving representatives from across the commonwealth in recognition of the losses suffered by all. I am reassured by the emphasis placed upon the commemorations by the French President, and applaud his attempt to use the occasion to shore up support for the Paris Climate Change accord.
Nevertheless, the day also spawned mixed emotions. Respect for those that sacrificed everything in the interests of freedom. Sorrow for the families who lost those they loved, whichever side of the conflict. Admiration for those leaders who stand for peace, reconciliation, unity and strong moral values.
But, the positive tenor of the tributes set in context the challenges that we face in the modern world, and the paucity of responsible leadership that is evident, endowed with the qualities of humility and integrity that are required to assure future global security and equality of prosperity.
Our world feels more dangerous than it has ever done in my lifetime, and our planet is under siege; for the first time we know, unequivocally, that we are destroying this Earth.
I pray that events like Armistice Day fuel a commitment to embrace unification and forge alliances, to reject isolationist nationalism, and to pay attention to the planet that sustains us all; its atmosphere, environment, biodiversity and resources.