Reflections on Anzac Day

Let’s wear the white poppy for all the victims of war

By the Rt Rev. John Murray

 Speaking the other Saturday at Speaker’s Corner by the Library, on the subject of ANZAC, I put forward a choice between poppies red and poppies white – which will we wear to remember?

Red poppies look back to the blood soaked slopes of Gallipoli and to the mud and guts of Flanders fields “where poppies blow”. Red speak of war and “fallen heroes” –white speaks of “all the casualties”, the women and the children, the raped and the ravaged, friends and foes, towns blown apart and the countryside devastated, – white pleads, in hope, for peace. White poppies for peace. Just three of us sat outside Coastlands last week and offered white poppies for remembrance.

Many stopped and took a poppy – especially young mothers – and the donations all go to Peace scholarships for young New Zealanders.

We ran out of our supply! Thank you to those who had courage for peace.

Is New Zealand a peace country or a war country? Yes, it is a choice between red and white. History tells us that we are more for war.

Tribal wars, Musket wars, Colonial wars, the Boer war, the Great war, the World war, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq – for the last century, we have fought other peoples’ wars, in other peoples’ lands, for other peoples’ causes.

The growing enthusiasm for ANZAC Day is in proportion to the loss of the reality of war and to the loss, for the majority of us, of the pain of war’s atrocity. Lest we forget that the bloodiest century of human history was the Twentieth.

Do we need the statistics? “You’ll never get peace” said one man as he passed us by. Yes we will. The world is slowly moving out of the old ways of war. In the past week or so, the Global Arms Trade Treaty has been passed by an overwhelming majority in the UN – the Global Day against Military spending [$5 billion a day!] while 24,000 children a day die unnecessary deaths – a conference in Edinburgh working for a Nuclear Weapon-free World – and NZ brought at last our troops home from Afghanistan.

These are signs of coming peace – and white poppies too.

But our media do not bother to mention them. At the stump at Speaker’s Corner, I wore too another white emblem. It was the ‘raukura’ of Te Whiti o Rongomai. We should be proud of him and his people at Parihaka. And remember, he is honoured at our local Whakarongotai Marae.

Whatever we wear, let it be white – poppies or te raukura. Then ANZAC will be become for us, not a tribal celebration but a day dedicated to peace. “There is no way to peace – peace is the way”.


‘We can no longer endure in this twentieth century civilization that governments should tolerate brute force as the only solution to international disputes.’ Aletta Jacobs, 28 April 1915 at the foundation of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Still sadly true in the 21st century. Good on you for promoting peace, John, amid the increasing ra-ra about ANZAC Day.