This was an Anzac Day held in the shadow of Christchurch, less than a week after the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka. But the abiding message of Anzac Day 2019 in Napier was a poignant yet simple one. We remember. We grieve. And we will commit to make our little city - and this world - a better, kinder, more forgiving place.
This sentiment was shared among all seven speakers. We share NCC Acting Mayor Faye White's speech below: we are collating the others for you to read and reflect upon.
You will have heard these words.
Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace.
You, the mothers who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears… your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.
Having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.
These words, attributed to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern Turkey, grace memorials on three continents. They adorn Anzac Cove in Gallipoli itself. Heartrending – heart-warming – they bring a message of reconciliation – of forgiveness, of aroha, of love – that we need now more than ever.
Because these past 50 days have witnessed unspeakable horrors. Last month, in the country we like to call Godzone, we saw 50 people murdered while they worshipped at a mosque. On Easter Sunday 253 more souls were murdered in Sri Lanka, many worshipping in churches. We come to this Anzac Day with heavy hearts.
But we are here. Together. I would like to extend a special welcome to Sayeed Ahmed, President of Hawke’s Bay’s Muslim community. As-salāmu ʿalaykum. A special welcome, too, to our Sri Lankan family. Ayubowan.
Friends, you are here with us – your Napier whānau. Kia ora – and welcome – to these honoured guests.
Let us commit to the virtues of forgiveness – of kindness, of charity, of reconciliation. Let us build a strong and inclusive community, where those from other lands quickly feel at home, where gentleness, grace and empathy are the values that define us...
We are here today to remember them. We remember the 1042 sons and daughters of Napier who lost their lives fighting in distant lands. We remember those brave men and women, some just boys and girls really, who never came home. We remember them each day: we formally honour them today.
We also remember all those who served our country. As time passes, the number of veterans physically present with us, dwindles. But you are all here with us today. And you will see there are more of your descendants here now than ever before.
This has been one of the features of Anzac Days across Aotearoa over the past two decades. More of us each year come together for them. And we remember.
We remember grandfathers and great-grandfathers who landed on a sliver of sand at Gallipoli and faced soaring cliffs raked with machine gun fire. We remember the bravery of those men who hung on for eight months, yielding nothing, giving everything.
We remember those who fell – those who would never become fathers or grandfathers. We think of their mates and comrades who watched them die: we think of their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers who carried the burden of grief until the end of their days. Loss. The people they would never meet.The lives they never got to build.
We resile from the horrors and futility of war – but we also commit today to fittingly honour the sacrifice of our men and women. Let us commit to the virtues of forgiveness – of kindness, of charity, of reconciliation. Draw comfort from those fine words of Kemal Atatürk and remember there is indeed no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets, the Manus and the Mohammads… the Ravis and the Richards. Let us build a strong and inclusive community, where those from other lands quickly feel at home, where gentleness, grace and empathy are the values that define us. Let us take to heart our national proverb: What is the most important thing of all?
He tangata. He tangata. He tangata.
It is people. Those here today: those who have passed on.
Lest we forget.
21 May 2019
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