Today at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 2014 (at 11am on 11/11/2014), I attended an event at my local village memorial to commemorate the fallen heroes of World War I and the people they left behind.
It was a wonderful event, which brought together people of all ages, all backgrounds and faiths to pray together for the end of the suffering in wars today and for those that we have lost before.
It is exactly 100 years today that the ‘Armistice’ was signed between the Allied Forces of World War I and Germany to put an end to all conflict and hostilities and secure lasting peace worldwide.
Traditionally, at 11am (the time that the agreement took place and war ended), people around the world observe a 2 minute silence to reflect upon firstly, the approximate 20 million people that died during the war and then the second minute is spent reflecting upon those they left behind, including wives and children who had to continue to struggle on affected by the conflict that had ripped their lives apart.
Parts of Laurence Binyon’s famous poem, ‘For The Fallen’ is often recited as a tribute to all casualties of the war:
“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam”
We heard this very poem recited at the event I attended, amongst other thought provoking words.
We all prayed for all those that had fallen and observed the two minute silence.
We also prayed for all those still being traumatised and suffering at the hands of war today.
I had tears in my eyes, when a friend and colleague reminded us that his sons who are now aged 17 and 21 are busy studying and preparing for their bright futures and if they were in 1914, they would be preparing for war and ultimately their deaths.
Children from all of the local primary and secondary schools had sent representatives to announce and place their works in to a time capsule.
They had written letters, poetry and downloaded videos to describe their lives today.
Some had written letters, in the position of children in 1914.
The local paper and local Council Park Services, placed their leaflets and works in to the capsule.
People from all of the local faith communities (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh etc) had written and signed a letter to also be included, in the hope that in 100 years someone may stumble across the capsule to learn more about the people that lived here in 2014.
It was a truly inspiring collaboration, that brought everyone together for the common good, everyone forgot their differences and remembered what they shared in common.
The time capsule was then buried under a slab.
We heard the oft-recited words “Lest We Forget” and someone also had made and placed a stunning, wooden, carved bench behind the memorial with the same words beautifully inscribed on to it.
I had tears in my eyes, thinking about how these men and women must have felt.
My thoughts then turned to the thousands of people still living in ongoing conflict around the world. Some at the hands of our own government.
I couldn’t help but wonder whether we have really remembered the war that was supposed to end all wars?
Whether all those lives that were lost in the hope to make our lives better, had indeed taught us a lesson?
Have we really learnt that conflict doesn’t resolve anything?
Are we still voting for and supporting governmental decisions that inflict pain and death? Whether it is upon people that affect us or not is irrelevant, for if we have indeed learnt anything from 11/11/1914, we should have learnt that wars have achieved nothing, except misery and death.
Yet in the last 100 years, we have seen more conflict and death than ever before. To this day innocent lives are being slain in the interests of a few.
I feel disheartened when I think of all those who have lost their lives and those that have been left behind affected. I feel helpless.
I can only pray that whilst we look back, we truly reflect and then look ahead, trying to learn from our mistakes. It is still not too late.
Just as on the day the Armistice was signed, the Allied Forces believed that they would be ending all wars and achieving lasting peace, we can once again aim to secure peace worldwide.
In order to do this, we all need to look deeply within and ask ourselves that in another 100 years, do we want people to be commemorating more fallen heroes, remembering more misery and bloodshed?
Or do we want to be celebrating the passion of a global peaceful movement worldwide that brought peace in this chaotic, crazy, global world?
I’m sure we CAN achieve this, but the only way we can is if we ALL work together, putting our differences and egos aside.
We ultimately need to rediscover our humanity.
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