Peace groups remembered civilians at Anzac day events

Peace Action Wellington and friends joined Anzac day events in Wellington to remember civilian casualties of war. We called for an end to war, and honoured all civilians casualties with a respectful presence at the dawn service at Pukeahu and at the Wellington Citizens’ Wreath-laying Service at the Cenotaph.

“We laid a wreath for civilian casualties of war because all loss of life in war is abhorrent.” said spokesperson, Alex Davies. Peace Action Wellington laid a wreath alongside other peace groups who laid wreaths for conscientious objectors, the Afghan people killed in Operation Burnham, and the people killed by ANZAC soldiers in the Surafend Massacre in Palestine, 1918.

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“In the past four years we have seen an increasing obsession with Anzac day. This came to a head around the First World War centenary. Anzacs continue to be heavily romanticised as heroes and the protagonists of the historical New Zealand war narrative. However, selective commemoration can alter our view of history, and whose lives we deem to be important. On this day of remembrance it’s important we remember all aspects of war, including the civilian casualties and those that opposed it.”, said spokesperson, Alex Davies.

“We cannot separate commemorations of the past from the contemporary wars we participate in. Anzac day is a day to remember and reflect, we should be able to think critically and question how as a country we can be actively working towards peace.”, said Davies.

The government has finally begun an inquiry into the SAS lead Operation Burnham in Afghanistan and commemorations of the New Zealand Land Wars, both of which have only happened because citizens have stood up and requested it. Peace Action Wellington hopes that this reflection means we can move forward and actively work towards full demilitarisation.

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“When we laid our wreath we also remembered the more than 100,000 civilians that have died in Syria. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern misspoke when she said that New Zealand ‘accepted’ the bombing of Syria by the US, UK and France. Many New Zealanders would prefer that our country took a stand for peace and led the way on international demilitarisation and non-violent diplomacy.”, Davies said.

During her first foreign policy speech in February this year Ardern said that New Zealand, “Must recommit ourselves to the cause of non-proliferation and disarmament, and to the norms and rules which support those endeavours.” Actions speak louder than words, however. Peace Action Wellington calls on our government to end all New Zealand support and involvement in foreign conflicts including Afghanistan.

“When we say ‘Never again’, we should mean it.”, said Davies.

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