We’re a year away from 2014, the year which will put one hundred years between us and the beginning of World War I. Political and military leaders gained support for this war by claiming it would be over by Christmas, but ‘the war to end all war’ would span 4 years and see to the death of 37 million ancestors of many nations.
One of the most notorious battles of this war took place between 1915 and 1916 on the Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey, as British and French allies attempted to conquer the Ottoman capital of Constantinople to secure an ocean passage to Russia. This never happened, as the Turks were successful in defending Gallipoli. The fallout of the battle was an unimaginable loss for both sides, with nearly half a million casualties.
Gallipoli became a defining moment for Turkey, as their nation transitioned into modernity under their leader, Mustafa Ataturk. Australia and New Zealand also found new senses of national identity as their survivors returned home in defeat. Thousands of Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs) were killed on the field or died from sickness and exposure at Gallipoli (26,000 Aussies and over 7500 Kiwis died), with little connection to the military objectives they fought for. The Anzacs are remembered and celebrated in their homelands for their ‘Anzac spirit’ of courage, mateship, ingenuity and even ‘larrikinism‘. The Turkish people also continue to remember and celebrate the Anzacs along with their own fallen at Gallipoli. These words by the Turkish leader engraved on a plaque on the battleground have set a tone of longstanding brotherhood and understanding–a commiseration of sorts:
“Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours. You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosoms and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.” Mustafa Kemal Ataturk 1934
A few years ago we met some Aussies and Kiwis who see the occasion of worldwide remembrance in the next couple years as an opportunity to extend back some of that graciousness. Focusing on 2015, the centenary of Gallipoli, they’re asking Christians in the region to participate in a year of blessing the nation of Turkey, in the “Anzac spirit”. Through their website (gallipoli2015.com) they’re working to raise awareness of the special relationship afforded them by Turks, and are challenging Aussies and Kiwis to participate in a year of focused prayer, serving trips to Turkey, and extending that ‘mateship’ to their Turkish neighbours around them.
CD – Create Emerge