We remember because we are called to do so

Published November 1, 2007

The theme of remembrance weaves its way throughout this issue of the Anglican Journal. The theme is certainly obvious in photographs and stories about wars and the military (past and present), but also in the mention of a series of vigils that remembered missing and murdered aboriginal women in this country and in the story of a scrappy expatriate Canadian who has chosen not to forget what happened to the people of New Orleans after a hurricane caused the flooding of their city in 2005.

In the month that includes Remembrance Day, the theme, though not deliberate, feels appropriate. It is illustrated in several stories:

On p. 2, high school student Anna York-Lyon writes touchingly about a visit she made earlier this year to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial where she was able to stand (symbolically) in the shoes of a young man, not much older than she is, who died in the epic battle at France’s Vimy Ridge in 1917;

On p. 7 is an image from one of 30 Sisters in Spirit vigils that were held across the country to remember missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada;

On p. 9, staff writer Solange De Santis writes about a training school in southern Ontario for military chaplains. These military-trained clergy, it has been said by those in the ministry, hold soldiers’ stories in their hands. They can be the last person to speak to a dying combatant or the first to break bad news to a dead soldier’s family;

And, finally, p. 10 features the story of Gordon Soderberg, who seethes with anger at the inaction of various governments to fix the broken city of New Orleans. “I see something wrong and scream bloody murder about it,” says Mr. Soderberg.

It is a reflective time of year, punctuated as it is with the Nov. 11 Remembrance Day holiday. While the nation no longer marks the day as it once did – with a holiday for school children and much of the workforce – it is still a day in the calendar during which to pause and remember what is important. (The fact that Canada is involved in the conflict in Afghanistan – a conflict that has already seen a significant body count – makes war all the more real for this nation that has been better known for peacekeeping in recent decades.)

But why is the act of remembering so important?

Christians are called each Sunday to remember Jesus Christ’s sacrifice when they recall his last meal. “Do this in remembrance of me,” said Christ, a phrase that is repeated each week for us at the eucharist. And so we do.

But as Christians and members of the human race, we are also called to remember other events and individuals, since all of God’s children are considered equal.

We commemorate some events, like the world wars of the last century, the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide, so that (ideally) the world does not repeat its mistakes. (That they are repeated – and so frequently, at that – means that it is too easy to forget the lessons that history teaches us.)

As Christians, we can bear witness to the plight of New Orleans’ poor when others might have moved on to the next tragedy that captures the world’s attention.

We can join families and friends in recalling the lives of aboriginal women who are missed and mourned by too few Canadians.

And we can pin a poppy on our lapel, attend commemorative events like parades and Remembrance Day services at our local churches or cenotaphs and remember the sacrifices that our military men and women have made – and continue to make.

We remember because we are called to do so.


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