Anzac Day Weekend Workshop
Silver Wattle Quaker Retreat and Study Centre
23-26 April 2010
Open Letter from the Gathering
Dear friends and peace-workers,
On ANZAC Day weekend 23-26 April 2010, at the Australian Quaker Centre at Silver Wattle, Bungendore near Canberra, 17 Christians and 2 Buddhists gathered from the east coast of Australia to respond to the growing militarisation of both Anzac Day and Australian society and to consider ways of putting an end to war.
In the grace of Silver Wattle and the grandeur of its outlook over Weereewa (Lake George) and in the joy, good humour, dedication and inspiration of companionship, participants felt ‘the hand of God’ moving them. Participants were, in the main, people with deep experience of peace and social justice organising over the past 40 years. Even though we were few and the challenges ahead enormous, our meditation seemed to be some kind of turning point in the tides of war and peace in this land – and beyond.
Sessions were led by participants and the group, with much sharing, focussed on:
– The teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God, and the prophetic and priestly requirements of our times;
– Contemporary Christian Nonviolent Action in Australia;
– Personal war witness and truth-telling (Baghdad, Bougainville, Gaza, Palestine);
– Christian Peacemaker Teams internationally, and scope for CPT in our region;
– The ideological roots of Anzac Day, its spiritual dimensions and contemporary practice;
– War Tax Refusal.
At each point, participants reflected on and shared personal experiences, along with hopes, fears, and desires about war, peace and Anzac Day. Recurring themes were the direction and next steps for faith-based peace-making in Australia, and how we might engage with Anzac Day in this pursuit. It is apparent that all of us are deeply touched by the stories and events of war and its impacts on family and society on all sides and in all places.
There were points of consensus:
- The centrality of the principle to love one another, and the call to be willing to die rather than kill;
- Gratitude to Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds for their timely book on the contemporary politics of Anzac Day in Australia, What’s Wrong with Anzac? The Militarisation of Australian history, UNSW Press, April 2010, Paperback, 192 pp;
- Concern about both the growing militarisation of Anzac Day, along with the exclusion of other perspectives on Australia’s national formation and role in the world;
- The hunger of Australians for authentic and meaningful values and experiences, which is the need behind the growth of participation in Anzac Day ceremonies;
- The political use of Anzac Day to militarise Australian culture and validate engagement in foreign wars, thereby narrowing the public discussion of history and virtue and failing to acknowledge the full multicultural range of grief and losses;
- The control of the RSL over Anzac ceremonies and their content;
- The failure of churches to provide Christian witness and perspective in Anzac Day commemorations;
- The racism explicit in the historical Anzac engagement and implicit in today’s remembrance of sacrifice in foreign wars only, with no mention of the frontier war against Aboriginals or the loss and suffering in war by Australian citizens of non-Anglo ethnicity;
- The need to bring forth the stories of the Anzacs themselves and those who have fought in wars since, and to focus on the lessons they have identified for us from their experiences;
- The need for ceremony to grieve for all those who died or whose lives were broken by war, including all sides and civilian victims, and to recognise the impact of their loss on families and community, especially women and children who bear the brunt with devastating consequences;
- The need to broaden Anzac Day into remembrance of the ongoing blight of war and to reclaim it as a people’s peacemaking day;
- The need to transform the energies of Anzac Day into effective peace-making.
We rejoiced in singing the song:
Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream
|Last night I had the strangest dream
I’d ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
And the room was filled with women and men
And the paper they were signing said
They’d never fight again
And when the paper was all signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful pray’rs were prayed
|And the people in the streets below
Were dancing ’round and ’round
While swords and guns and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground
Last night I had the strangest dream
I’d never dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war.
Added verse for active resistance: 
So here am I and here are you
We’re standing where we are
To do the things that we can do
To put an end to war.
The group resolved to take forward the following issues:
* To initiate a “White Poppy” program for ANZAC Day 2011 and to extend ANZAC Day forward with an evening vigil ceremony which commemorates all victims of war and envisions an end to war;
* To identify opportunities and initiatives within the peace movement to assist with the healing of war veterans;
* A recurring “Shoalwater Wilderness Pilgrimage”, containing and reflecting Christian Civil Disobedience to be developed and publicised for Exercise Talisman Sabre 2011, and subsequently;
* Consideration by the Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Australasia Regional Group of a proposal to form a Christian Peacemaker Team to visit West Papua;
* To seek opportunities for cooperative peace-making initiatives between Australian and New Zealand activists.
Agreed by all present:
For further information, contact Helen:
Phone 02 6238 0588 or Mobile 0422 138 991
 Words and music by Ed McCurdy
TRO-©1950,1951 & 1955 Almanac Music, Inc. New York, N.Y. Copyrights renewed. Used by permission.
 Added verse written for this event by Helen Bayes