“White Poppies For Peace” from Peace Movement Aotearoa have been for years actively promoting peace education, and challenging young people to think. Shirley Erena Murray.
Lest we forget them all
By Roger Childs
Another Anzac Day is coming up on Tuesday. There will be the traditional dawn parades and later gatherings around the nation’s war memorials; the veterans and descendants of those who served their country will march: wreaths will be laid; speeches will be delivered, and the Last Post and Reveille will be played.
We will also hear the reminders: Lest we forget and We will remember them.
The media will play their part too, with television presenters and news readers wearing the obligatory red poppies, and the channels and papers recalling battles glorious and deeds victorious.
It is right and proper that our small country, which has given so many lives per head of population over the last 117 years, should pause and remember the heroism, sacrifices and contributions New Zealanders made in time of war.
Most Kiwis at this time will buy a red poppy to keep faith with the fallen and the veterans.
The horrendous toll of wars
However, the reality of war is that most casualties have been civilians, caught up in conflicts where they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tragically, tens of millions of innocent people over the centuries have been slaughtered, injured, raped and displaced because of military campaigns aimed at achieving often short term, political goals.
In New Zealand, we recall the effects of war on families on the home front who lost husbands, fathers, sons and brothers in campaigns on the other side of the world. However, it is hard for us to identify with the plight of families overseas who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves living on, or close to, battlefields.
We can’t imagine what it would be like to have to leave our homes in Elizabeth Street, Realm Drive, Wellington Road and the Esplanade, put our belongings on a cart and head north, south, east or west, possibly never to return.
The white poppy
All we are saying is give peace a chance. John Lennon
The late John Murray often reminded those who would listen, of the wide ranging casualties of war and the importance of the white poppy as a symbol of peace.
His advocacy raised the ire of some folk in the local RSA who misunderstood the message. Speakers at Anzac Day services often talk about servicemen and women giving their lives that we might live in peace.
That’s what the white poppy is all about.
It is sad that where we remember the fallen, and those who served in wars in foreign fields, we use the name war memorials. If they could tell us, they would probably want the word peace used.
Time to reflect on all the casualties and peace
So when Anzac Day comes on Tuesday, we should reflect on the futility of war and its incredibly destructive effects on people, property and production.
We should honour and remember all the fallen, injured and displaced, and resolve, above all, to give peace a chance.
Peace Movement Aotearoa … describes the white poppy as “an international symbol of remembrance of all the casualties of war….” Shirley Murray
So think about wearing poppies red and white early next week. In that way you will be remembering the sacrifices our service people made, and the key reason why they died so far from home.