Com­mem­o­ra­tions of the Centenary of the nd of the First World War

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REMEMBRANCE DAY -

The Em­bassy of France to the OECS Mem­ber States and to Bar­ba­dos, in res­i­dence in Saint Lu­cia, re­minds us that Novem­ber 11 this year marks the centenary of the end of the First World War, which rav­aged Europe and parts of the world from July 28, 1914 to Novem­ber 11, 1918.

Con­clud­ing with the mil­i­tary vic­tory of the Al­lies, the First World War, dubbed the Great War, left a ter­ri­ble record on the hu­man, so­cial, po­lit­i­cal, diplo­matic, cul­tural and de­mo­graphic lev­els. Hu­man­ity had never ex­pe­ri­enced such ter­ri­ble losses in a sin­gle war: 22.5 mil­lion dead, wounded or miss­ing on the side of the Al­lies, 16.4 mil­lion on the side of the Cen­tral Em­pires.

1,400,000 French sol­diers were counted dead, 27% of the na­tion’s young men aged 18 to 27 and the sec­ond high­est rate of loss, after un­for­tu­nate Ser­bia, of the to­tal Al­lied ca­su­al­ties.

The bat­tle of Ver­dun alone sym­bol­izes all the hor­ror of this war. It op­posed the French and Ger­man armies for 300 days, from Fe­bru­ary 21 to De­cem­ber 18, 1916 in the re­gion of Ver­dun in Lor­raine. It cre­ated more than 700,000 ca­su­al­ties (dead, miss­ing or wounded): 362,000 French sol­diers and 337,000 Ger­mans; an av­er­age of 70,000 vic­tims for each of the ten months of the bat­tle, more than 1,000 deaths per day in each camp. How to bet­ter il­lus­trate the fu­til­ity of these fights?

The Great War was global. The fight­ing took place not only through­out Europe and part of Eura­sia but also on all the oceans of the world, in­clud­ing the Western At­lantic wa­ters.

Since 1922, Novem­ber 11 has been a na­tional hol­i­day in coun­tries that com­mem­o­rate vic­tory and peace. A na­tional trib­ute to the dead, a cer­e­mony is held in front of the tomb of the Un­known Sol­dier, marked in par­tic­u­lar by a tak­ing of arms, the lay­ing of wreaths and the ring­ing “to the Dead”. This rit­ual is re­peated in all the ceme­ter­ies and mil­i­tary memo­ri­als of the Great War, as well as at the foot of com­mu­nal war memo­ri­als.

This year, for the centenary of the end of this atro­cious war, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron is at­tend­ing a se­ries of highly sym­bolic events. After a week of vis­its and trib­ute cer­e­monies on the sites of mul­ti­ple bat­tle­fields, the Pres­i­dent of the French Repub­lic, ac­com­pa­nied by the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, joined a cer­e­mony on Sun­day Novem­ber 4 at the Armistice Glade, in the com­mune of Com­piègne, marked by the sim­plic­ity of a mo­ment of rec­ol­lec­tion and ho­mage.

On Novem­ber 5, Pres­i­dent Macron spoke at an in­ter­na­tional cer­e­mony at the Arc de Tri­om­phe in Paris, in the pres­ence of a hun­dred for­eign dig­ni­taries. As in pre­vi­ous years, the coun­tries that par­tic­i­pated in the Great War came to com­mem­o­rate in 2018 the mem­ory of their sol­diers fallen in France. Through­out the year, the Por­tuguese, Aus­tralian, Amer­i­can, Czech, Slo­vak, Bri­tish, Cana­dian, New Zealand, and Ger­mans au­thor­i­ties have or­gan­ised, or par­tic­i­pated in the or­gan­i­sa­tion of, cer­e­monies hon­our­ing their sol­diers. More than 120 for­eign dig­ni­taries rep­re­sent­ing the bel­liger­ent coun­tries of the Great War, the Eu­ro­pean in­sti­tu­tions, the United Na­tions and sev­eral other in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions are in­vited to a cer­e­mony on Novem­ber 11.

The Paris Fo­rum for Peace is the nat­u­ral con­tin­u­a­tion of the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the end of this ter­ri­ble war. It was opened on Novem­ber 5 at the Grande Halle de la Vil­lette in Paris, in the pres­ence of for­eign dig­ni­taries in­vited to the cer­e­mony on Novem­ber 11, joined by some of their coun­ter­parts who did not par­tic­i­pate but were in­vited to at­tend the open­ing cer­e­mony in the af­ter­noon.

Be­cause peace is cur­rently los­ing ground ev­ery day in the world, this Peace Fo­rum will bring to­gether heads of state and gov­ern­ment, lead­ers of in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions, NGOs, in­tel­lec­tu­als, stake­hold­ers, all those who want to think, take ac­tion, drive modern mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and build peace, be­cause peace is in dan­ger. The risk of di­vi­sion, na­tion­al­ism, in­ward-look­ing at­ti­tudes, the great fears which can cause democ­racy to doubt it­self, the lack of in­ter­na­tional co-op­er­a­tion; this is what our world might cur­rently be go­ing through. The Fo­rum, which will run un­til Novem­ber 13, aims to make con­crete pro­pos­als on global peace and gov­er­nance in all their as­pects, and rein­vent mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism and all modern forms of co-op­er­a­tion to en­sure peace gains ground ev­ery day.

Noth­ing is im­pos­si­ble to men of good will.

“We know the strength with which na­tion­al­ism and to­tal­i­tar­i­an­ism can un­der­mine democ­ra­cies and threaten the very con­cept of civ­i­liza­tion.” — Em­manuel Macron, Pres­i­dent of the French Repub­lic.

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