Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. – Albert Einstein
As we waded through the sea of people waiting to get into Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War exhibit at the magnificent Museum of New Zealand Te Papa, we were not sure what to expect. Anzac Day is fast approaching and we felt the need to understand more about what this commemorative day means to the country we temporarily call home.
On April 25, 1915, New Zealand and Australian soldiers – the Anzacs – landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Their mission was to capture the Dardanelles, the gateway to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea. After a 9 month campaign, Gallipoli was still held by the Turkish defending their homeland and thousands of lives were lost.
If we look at the First World War as a whole, the number of casualties in the Gallipoli campaign, although horrific, pales in comparison with the death toll of the major Allied and Associated powers. However, for New Zealand, Gallipoli was both a devastating loss and a catalyst for their burgeoning national identity – a mighty spirit of allegiance that we feel today, 100 years later.
Since we left in 2013 …
- We have walked on the hallowed ground of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
- We have sat on the beaches of Normandy in silence.
- We have gazed, speechless, at the sea of coffins erected for the Jewish memorial in Berlin.
- We have walked in the footsteps of revolutionaries fighting in the “Prague Spring” movement.
- We have intersected the Trail of Tears.
- We have dropped rose petals in Pearl Harbor.
- We have fanned flames at every “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”
- We have only just begun to understand.
There is something about the current political climate in the USA that makes it feel critically important to think about strong global relationships. What can we do to foster curiosity and respect for what other cultures, near and far, have to teach us? What are the consequences of pinching ourselves off to those lessons? What can we do from any corner of the globe to see more globally? Are we giving our voice to peace or are we resisting the opposing voice? There is an important difference …
This Anzac Day, we will be thinking about all the plaques and memorials we have seen across the globe honoring those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. As we connect the dots of the Great Wars and those that haven’t yet been named, the scale of war is what resonates. Whether you live on superpower soil or a small island in Polynesia, each life is precious. We believe now, more than ever, in giving whatever voice we can to peace.