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What Is the Point of Remembering?

It's November 11th, so you all know what and whom I'm writing about. When I sat down to write, I wasn't sure what thoughts I had. And now this is my preamble: the following is by and large a sermon to myself. I don't intend to point fingers anywhere but at my own self (and more broadly, at the whole of our culture).


Remembrance Day isn't exactly a "holiday," but to me it is one of the most important days that we recognize as a country. This morning I stood in the small chapel at my seminary, participating in a brief service of prayer and rememberance while the cannons at Queen's Park echoed off the bricks and a distant horn sounded the Last Post.
Grampie and I, last year.

The sounds of war.

Briefly, mutedly, minutely, a reminder of what too many people lived through for too many days, weeks, months.

The act of remembering. An important occasion.

But here's my question: does it matter? What is the point of stopping to remember and honour the past if we aren't actually learning from it?

A few weeks ago, I called Grampie. As we chatted, I let him know that I would definitely be in town for yesterday's church service. He had been asked to read Scripture, and as much as he protests getting up in front of a crowd, the request to participate is a much-needed recognition and beautiful way to honour him.

Our conversation, of course, turned to the war, and he said something I've heard many times.

"You know I don't talk much about what happened. I don't like to talk about what we went through."

And then he made a connection I've never heard from him before.

"You want to know what we saw? Just watch the news. The same things are still happening to the women and children today."

The same things.
Are happening today.

The things my Grampie spent years in the trenches for. The memories that haunt him, seventy years later.

Genocide. Rape. Murder. The worst types of torture and violence.

They are happening today.

And what are we doing?

Now, I am not saying it's time for a new world war. God forbid such a thing should happen. But in the seventy years since World War II, have we not gained new tools? Have we not learned anything? Do we have no solutions, no methods of prevention or intervention?

Do we still care so little for our fellow humans?

I feel convicted today that remembering is not enough. Or rather, that "remembering" is not simply stopping to say, "This happened." A remembrance that honours the lives lost or irrevocably changed by wars in our past must include a commitment to bring peace, to be people of peace, and to seek the peace of all humanity, most especially those who are being oppressed, whose lives are at risk in the present day.

We kid ourselves if we say that the world is at peace today. We may not be living in a time of active war here in Canada, but to say our world is at peace is to deny the atrocities, the indignities, and the sufferings of millions.

So what are we going to do about it? What am I going to do about it?

Do we simply sit and wait til our government legislates violent action? Are there no other means, no other options to actively, yet peacefully, fight intolerance, racism, gender inequality and oppression? What is the reasonable act of a person who lives in relative peace and safety in response to the millions who do not?

I don't know yet, entirely. But I'm giving it much thought. And I welcome yours.

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