Remembrance Day, But Have We Forgotten?
I will not soon forget the sight of what I saw unfold on the steps of the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne on the 22nd of September this year. Built as a symbol that recollects biannually the sacrifice of many men for the retention of freedoms we today enjoy, became on this day the strongest witness that we have forgotten the reason we are called to remember.
Protesters chose this site as the most symbolic of sites to send a message to Australia that the freedoms for which it commemorates were under threat. Though politicians and the media maligned the protesters, the greatest testimony to witness the antithesis of the Shrine’s existence occurred a few hours later. Armed police, antiterrorists, and riot squads surrounded the shrine of protesters, one side of which opened up as the call came for the crowd to disperse, then the shooting began. The crowd ran and as they ran a line of riot police raised their rifles and continually shot rubber bullets into the fleeing crowd amidst screams and gasps of disbelief. This all occurred on the very grounds of the Shrine built for us to remember the enemy of freedom, it seems too evident that we have forgotten.
Under the charge of the Labor Government, whose very origin was for the rights of the common people and the working-class man, the Premier employed an iron boot using the same Police whose very employment is the protection of the people, to use gunpowder against them. On the one side were unarmed protesters assembling to rightfully petition the government of their grievances, on the other side officers employed by the people; helmeted, shielded, and armed with rubber bullets, stinger grenades, and pepper balls, these are seen to fire without any evident discretion or abandon against the very working-class they are sworn to protect. Evidence of how we gained freedom was forgotten on this day.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month a ray of sunlight enters the sanctuary of the Victorian Shrine of Remembrance and falls upon the Stone of Remembrance, it marks the time, the day, and the month each year to which I, as a schoolboy in the early ’70s, stood with my classmates for one minute of silence for a purpose I had no knowledge of or recollection for, today I wonder if there are many left who do.
The Prime minister who inaugurated the first occurrence of that solemn remembrance in 1919, Billy Hughes, gave a speech which enshrines for us the purpose for which many sacrificed their lives both in the years preceding it and thereafter;
“Our heritage, our free institutions of government – all that we hold dear – are handed back into our keeping, stained with the blood of sacrifice. Surely not only we, their fellow citizens, but Australians throughout the ages, will treasure forever the memories of those glorious men to whom the Commonwealth owes so much, and will guard with resolute determination the privileges for which they fought and suffered.”
“Harbinger”, it is a word that identifies that which signals the approach of something else. Harbingers are forerunners, like the herald who cries in the streets or the watchman that stands upon a wall, but harbingers are events that speak, not people.
There have been many harbingers in history and there were the people who identified them. There were harbingers of the collapse of wall st before October 1929, earlier that year economist Roger Babson sounded the alarm; There were many harbingers before the First World War, men such as Jan Gotlib Bloch were heralds of its coming a decade earlier; There were many harbingers of WW2, Winston Churchill was the most vocal watchman on the wall of the United Kingdom, warning of the mad man on the mainland. There have been many harbingers historically, and many prophets who warned of them…but few identified them and fewer listened to those who did.
The greatest harbinger of all is revealed in that which testifies within man that all is not as it seems, that there is something more to this world, something of value infinite, a fight for the eternal but witnessed in the temporal, but all the while an active effort to convince the contrary.
“They surpassed us only in phrases and cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces”
Those words were written by Erich Maria Remarque in his classic masterpiece, ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’. In that phrase, he tells us of a conditioning in the world that gave the people of the world an impression about the world that was contrary to reality. The world they had been taught was one of great promise; prosperity, luxury, enjoyments of every kind, a veritable Utopiaimagined true from Sir Thomas More’s book in 1516, to that day when that first bombardment shattered the ideal of such a world in pieces. There were harbingers that such a world did not exist, but its reality hit home only when the bombing began.
Events such as that which have occurred in Victoria are repeated the world over, each event is a harbinger and the Bible is the prophet that speaks of the Coming of the Lord, it is the watchman on the wall, the herald of his return and we are the voices who cry out. These events today are not in isolation, they follow on from a direct path written of in the Book of books, and we, The People of The Book, should have long remembered it, but it seems we too have forgotten.
Christ is coming to judge the world, his wrath against its evil is set to be poured out and all that is occurring are the harbingers to his coming. There is a world, eternal in the heavenlies, to which we are to keep our focus and for which we are set to fight, but for too long many soldiers for Christ have deserted their post for a utopian crystal set to shatter when he comes.
My cry, therefore, is not to the world, but to YOU good Christian who has believed through the “phrases and cleverness” of Utopian salesmen, of a world that does not exist outside the Kingdom of God. How many ‘bombardments’ will it take before your image of this world is ‘broke in pieces’? How many are the Harbingers you ignore of that which is to follow, how many heralds need to cry out, how many watchmen need to remind you?
My last harbinger occurred on the 22nd of September this year, and the cries of the fleeing crowd were the herald. That event bombed whatever was left of the false bill of goods the world had long sold to me, in that event “the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces”.
…the battle-front is not your temporary comforts, but the souls of men, women and children who cry out for the hope you have.
WE ARE IN A WAR NOW, and we are the soldiers called to fight, not for an earthly kingdom but for the Kingdom of the Living God. We DO NOT wrestle with flesh and blood and the weapons of our warfare are not guns or bombs, the fight we fight is accomplished on our knees and our weapon is the Gospel. We are Soldiers for a heavenly kingdom and the revelation of that kingdom is near, the battle-front is not your temporary comforts, but the souls of men, women, and children who cry out for the hope you have.
Who is your King? What are you fighting for? Whose souls should you prosper? My hope and prayer is that you might remember.
Pr Edi Giudetti