Tomorrow, in Australia and New Zealand, we commemorate the centenary of ANZAC Day. 'ANZAC' stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
On the 25th of April 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula. The ANZACs landed on Gallipoli and met fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. Their plan to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months.
At the end of 1915, the allied forces were evacuated. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers and over 3,000 New Zealand soldiers were killed. What is often forgotten is that over 58,000 Turks were killed in that battle.
There are mixed emotions about ANZAC day commemorations. Some people feel it glorifies war. Our last ANZAC, Alec Campbell, pleaded on his deathbed: ''For God's sake, don't glorify Gallipoli - it was a terrible fiasco, a total failure and best forgotten''. Others say it is a fitting tribute to remember those who gave their lives and ultimate sacrifice. If you ever want to read heated differences of opinion just go to any article on ANZAC day and read the comments.
Here are some samples:
- “My grandfather fought in WWII. He marched for his mates and family not the flag. Many veterans refrain from celebrations due to trauma. They are not glorifying war; they are honoring and remembering the dead. Most people you talk to celebrate it for the dead, not for nationalistic sentiment.”
- “My children and I stood at the dawn service this year, like previous years and think of the people we know who went to war and were damaged, or who never returned. We think of the suffering and the fear and the futility of many wars. It is a somber time for us and for the thousands around us who are all quiet and reflective. My children are of an age their ancestors were when they went to war and we remember the cost to so many families. After the service we spend time together celebrating life. They see it as their responsibility to live life well. There is no glorification of war.”
- “ANZAC Day is the remembrance of the futility of war (to me). Nations leaders send their young capable people to die for a badge of remembrance; how dumb is that. It is a stark reminder that humans are basically stupid and the attack on Gallipoli demonstrated that at a huge cost of lives. These days we use drones and computers while busily polluting the air we need to breathe and the water we need to drink. And we pride our intelligence.”
- “War is a barbarous and terrible thing, to be avoided by all possible means. It's one thing to honor the bravery and self-sacrifice of those who acted in defense of our country. It is another matter altogether to present war participation as a noble enterprise in itself or as some questionable 'proof' of our manhood and national identity. We need a national commitment to stay out of wars, especially the enthusiastically chosen kind such as Iraq.”
These few samples illustrate the strong emotions and opinions that a nation of diversity feels on this day. However, there is perhaps one thing that everyone agrees on, regardless of their differences of ideology when it comes to war, and that is the spirit exhibited by the young soldiers who went to war.
This is now known as the ANZAC spirit or legend. It represents the character qualities that Australians have seen their forces show in war. These qualities collectively make up the ANZAC spirit and include endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, and mateship. Courage in the face of great adversity – and it is this attribute we will celebrate this weekend at CityLife as we launch our annual World Impact Week.
Jesus calls us as his followers to show great courage in his cause - the Great Commission. It takes boldness and the conquering of fear to share good news and take it to the very corners of our globe.