ANZAC Day, Making Friends with Enemies.

May 4, 2017

A coupe of weeks ago when I was visiting my son in Canberra, Heather and I went for a walk and ended up at the Australian War Memorial. It is a spectacular view looking from the steps of the War Memorial, down Anzac Parade across Lake Burley Griffin, to Parliament House. What is worth pondering is that as you walk down from the War Memorial on the left hand side of Anzac Parade, the first memorial you come to remembers the enemy.

There at the head of the Parade is a memorial to Kemal Atatürk, the soldier, who as a Lieutenant Colonel, led the Turkish forces that repelled the ANZACS in 1915. As I looked at it I wondered how many other countries would honour an enemy at their national war memorial.

What struck me about this memorial is that if we are to find true peace, we will always have to make friends with those who have been enemies. Peace will never last if it is no more that the sort of stand off that was created during the cold war. Spending our time glaring suspiciously at one another over a stockpile of weapons is a poor substitute for true peace.

We all know that WW1, the war to end all wars, did not achieve that noble goal, despite the formation of the League of Nations following its end. We know that we have become embroiled in many wars since, some contained and some, like the conflict in Iraq seemingly endless. We are now facing a very different type of war, where the enemy recruits combatants from many countries and use the technique we call “terrorism”.

Somehow we need to learn that building friendships before we end up in fierce battles might be a better strategy than trying to use bigger and bigger weapons against an enemy that is willing to sacrifice their own lives as long as the destroy others.

Romans 5 tells us that Jesus chose to sacrifice his life to reconcile us with God. It was while we were still God’s enemies that Jesus died for us. He came close to us, he loved us and brought his healing grace even though it was rejected and ended in his death. In so doing Jesus reconciled us with God and entrusted us with a similar mission of reconciliation.

The current world insecurities is giving rise to a new isolationism. Countries around the world are retreating from one another, as fear feeds into fear. Sadly the only future this reaction can have, is inevitable conflict and more war. We do need governments to take wise action to protect the citizens of their countries, but we also need citizens who will seek to better understand those who are different and try to build friendships that can overcome the fears.

Mr Curtis McGrath who spoke at the Dawn Service in Canberra this morning spoke about the “ripples of care” that restored him after having his legs blown off in Afghanistan. He said, self-reliance is important, but it is not enough. He is right. We have to be willing to look to others both to help and be helped. We need a more healthy model of community and nationhood.

Those who travel to foreign countries despite the risks; those who engage with neighbours from other nationalities and religions; those who read widely about the hopes and fears of other people; those who in any number of ways seek to build friendships and understanding, contribute to making this a safer more reconciled world. These small actions, these “ripples of care” will do more for peace and reconciliation than all the military power that we can muster.

It was 70 years after the Gallipoli invasion that the Turkish Government officially recognised the name ANZAC Cove and our government responded by establishing the Kemal Atatürk Memorial. These actions acknowledged the friendships that had already been built between people from our two nations. These government actions simply recognised what ordinary people had created. Even those who fought at Gallipoli had found a way to reconcile with one another.

It would be wonderful if such friendship building, such work of reconciliation could avert more wars. I have lost count of the number of ex-servicemen and women who have said to me that war accomplishes nothing. In the end we always have to find a negotiated peace; we always have to find a way to settle our differences in a way that creates friendship between former enemies.

The sacrament of Jesus broken body reminds us that it was while we were God’s enemies that he reached out to humankind to build a new relationship. This sacrament reminds us that this attempt at reconciliation resulted in Jesus death. The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that God was not prepared to leave it at death. The resurrection of Jesus assures us that God wants all humanity to find new life beyond all the fears, conflicts and deaths that we experience. Each time we join together to celebrate this sacrament we commit ourselves to God’s reconciling mission in the world. We commit to the mission of reconciling; making friends with enemies. In this way not only do we fulfill all that God asked of us, but we honour those who died hoping to bring peace.

The names on the walls around us make stark the cost of war. Let us be willing to give ourselves to the cost of making the