Anzac Day 2015 was an enormous event. The centenary of Gallipoli – a disastrous military exercise, which over the nine months it raged between the Turkish and Allied Forces, claimed more than 141 thousand lives.
This year Australia commemorates the 50th anniversary of our involvement in an equally flawed military encounter – the Vietnam War.
Like the two world wars before it, the Vietnam War has left an indelible scar on our psyche. Young men were conscripted, and these same National Servicemen were then treated as pariahs on their return as public support moved to downright hostility.
The Australian War Memorial (AWM) acknowledges the complexity of responses to the war in its permanent exhibition dedicated to the Vietnam War. Vietnam veterans were banned from marching in Anzac Day marches until a belated Welcome Home Parade in Sydney in 1987. In the exhibit, the AWM records: “Thousands of veterans marched in front of huge cheering crowds and attended a concert in the Domain. It brought many veterans together for the first time since their service.”
The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne has opened a temporary exhibit in the West Gallery of the Galleries of Remembrance titled 1966: The year that changed the world. The exhibit presents three themes: the first examines Australia and the world; the second is ‘A nation on the brink: 1966 in Vietnam’; and the third focuses specifically on Australia.
The Shrine says “The decisions made by politicians and generals in the year 1966 remain controversial. But the consequences of those decisions affected the men and women who served in Vietnam and elsewhere, not just for that year, but for the 50 years since. This exhibition is their story.”
The Uniting Church is a peacemaking church. The Church’s vision is for a world where there is no need for military arms and weapons.
In an Assembly statement published by Uniting Justice in 2005, the Uniting Church expressed its hope for the world: “…where conflict is resolved through peaceful means and where people and nations live together in dignity and hope, respecting each other’s cultural and religious traditions and relating to each other as loving neighbours whose future is shared. This hope is based in the understanding that God came in the crucified and risen Christ to make peace and that God calls all Christians to be peacemakers, to save life, to heal and love their neighbours.”
Members of the Uniting Church participated in an ecumenical service of peace held at St Paul’s Cathedral on Anzac Day. Described as an alternative Anzac commemoration, worshippers were invited to “a service of lament for all soldiers who suffered and died in World War I, especially in the Battle of Somme in 1916, for the doctors and nurses who cared for the wounded and dying, for loved ones at home during and after the campaign, for the government attempts to conscript men in to the war that was said to be the war that ends all war”.
The service was an initiative of St Paul’s Cathedral, Pax Christi and the Anzac Centenary Peace Coalition.
1966: The Year that Changed the World
4 April 2016-2 July 2017
Shrine of Remembrance, open daily, entry by donation.