LEST WE FOR­GET: Cana­di­ans re­flect on hor­ror of war amid wor­ries of to­day, to­mor­row

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page - LEE BERTHI­AUME AND TERESA WRIGHT

OT­TAWA — Spir­i­tual lead­ers re­flected on the hor­rors of the First World War while call­ing for a world of tol­er­ance and peace on Sun­day as thou­sands of Cana­di­ans braved the bit­ing cold to re­mem­ber and hon­our those who fought to de­fend such ideals.

While the sun shone down on those as­sem­bled around the Na­tional War Me­mo­rial un­der a bril­liant blue sky, thoughts and mem­o­ries of the War to End All Wars hung over the cer­e­mony.

“We gather on this hal­lowed ground, on which is in­terred Canada’s un­known sol­diers, to re­mem­ber those who made the ul­ti­mate sac­ri­fice,” Maj.-Gen. Guy Chapde­laine, the mil­i­tary’s most se­nior chap­lain, in­toned as the crowd stood silently.

“On the centenary of the sign­ing of the ar­mistice, we hon­our those whose names we know — and those whose names are known to God alone.”

Yet the present and fu­ture were also very much in the air as Chapde­laine preached a mes­sage of peace and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion amid grow­ing con­cerns in Canada and around the world that the hard lessons learned a cen­tury ago are in dan­ger of be­ing for­got­ten.

“We know that peace is more than tol­er­at­ing one an­other — it is rec­og­niz­ing our­selves in oth­ers and re­al­iz­ing that we are all on the path of life to­gether,” Chapde­laine said.

“Lord of jus­tice and peace, en­able us to lay down our own weapons of ex­clu­sion, in­tol­er­ance, ha­tred and strife. Make us in­stru­ments of peace that we may seek rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in our world.”

The same theme was picked up by Rabbi Reu­ven Bulka in his own ser­mon, as he urged Cana­di­ans to “re­flect on the no­tion of a world war,” and asked: “If the world can be at war, is it not pos­si­ble for the world to be at peace?

“It is not only pos­si­ble, it is ter­ri­bly nec­es­sary,” he added. “We gather to­day yearn­ing for a world that is truly at peace. Peace that is high­lighted by re­spect, in­clu­sion, co-op­er­a­tion, help­ful­ness, kind­ness and en­velop­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion.”

The mes­sages were timely, co­in­cid­ing as they did with a gath­er­ing of world lead­ers in Paris to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the War to End All Wars — and to dis­cuss ef­forts to pre­vent such a ter­ri­ble con­flict from erupt­ing again.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau was among those in Paris, where na­tion­al­ism has been iden­ti­fied as a real threat to the frag­ile state of in­ter­na­tional peace and sta­bil­ity that has per­sisted since the end of the Sec­ond World War.

Much of that con­cern cen­tres on U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ac­tions since com­ing to power, which in­clude un­der­cut­ting the NATO mil­i­tary al­liance and threat­en­ing the rules-based or­der es­tab­lished af­ter 1945.

The angst was clearly felt by some of those at Sun­day’s cer­e­mony in Ot­tawa as well as other parts of the coun­try, as Cana­di­ans from coast to coast to coast marked Remembrance Day at lo­cal ceno­taphs and mon­u­ments.

Royal Cana­dian Le­gion mem­ber Mark Monk, who at­tended the Remembrance Day cer­e­mony in Hal­i­fax to lay a wreath for Hal­i­fax Pride, said Sun­day was both a day for remembrance, and a day to think about cur­rent con­flicts.

“Although we’re cel­e­brat­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the ar­mistice of the end of the First World War, war is still preva­lent in all places around the world,” he said.

“Even at home there’s still con­flict of ev­ery kind, ev­ery­where: in our own com­mu­ni­ties, abroad, ev­ery­body. And it’s the re­spon­si­bil­ity as a com­mu­nity and as a so­ci­ety to work to­gether to re­move con­flict, bar­ri­ers and work to­gether.”

While much of Sun­day’s na­tional cer­e­mony in Ot­tawa was on the im­por­tance of de­fend­ing in­ter­na­tional peace, there was also a sig­nif­i­cant fo­cus on in­ner peace for those who have served in uni­form.

Even be­fore the cer­e­mony, the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion had fo­cused at­ten­tion on the is­sue by nam­ing Anita Cener­ini, whose son, Thomas Welch, took his own life in 2004 af­ter serv­ing in Afghanistan, as this year’s Sil­ver Cross Mother.

Welch was the first Cana­dian sol­dier to die by sui­cide af­ter serv­ing in the war in Afghanistan, and Cener­ini fought for years to have her son’s death rec­og­nized as be­ing caused by his mil­i­tary ser­vice.

In Mon­treal, re­tired Maj.-Gen. De­nis Thomp­son, who served 39 years with Canada’s armed forces, said Remembrance Day events are “cathar­tic and im­por­tant” for those who served.

Thomp­son, who com­manded troops in Cy­press, Bos­nia and Egypt’s Si­nai penin­sula, said he re­mem­bers the 25 Cana­dian and dozen U.S. sol­diers who died and the 100 who were in­jured dur­ing his time in Afghanistan in 2008 and 2009.

“I can fill those two min­utes of si­lence very eas­ily,” he said, “just by cy­cling through the names of the men that died un­der my com­mand.”

FRED CHARTRAND THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

A man walks by metal cutouts rep­re­sent­ing Cana­dian sol­diers dur­ing Remembrance Day cer­e­monies at the Na­tional Mil­i­tary Ceme­tery in Ot­tawa.

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