April 25 in New Zealand and Australia is ANZAC Day, a day for commemorating the First World War.
The fighting was mostly in Europe, 18,000 kilometres from New Zealand (15,000 km from Australia). Yet thousands of Kiwis and Aussies, under national conscription, made this long trip by sea to fight, kill and die in the ‘War to end all Wars.’ Some in New Zealand refused to join the slaughter, and were imprisoned for their pacifist stance. Regardless of whether one supports the pacifists or honours those who fought, New Zealanders and Australians stop work on ANZAC Day to remember the war and to recognise the importance of peace.
In Dunedin (NZ), students and staff of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies are organising a Peace and Pacifism Concert, to honour conscientious objectors, i.e. those who refuse to join wars. The concert will include music, poetry and drama with all proceeds going to the Archibald Baxter Trust.
Baxter was a conscientious objector in the First World War who was made an example of by the authorities. He was forced into the army, imprisoned for ‘refusing army orders’, tormented and tortured in prison, in an effort to change his pacifist stance. He was taken by the authorities all the way to the battlefields in Europe, and, at one time, tied to a cross in no-man’s land in between the armies in the fields of Flanders (Ypres, Belgium). Baxter stuck to his principles, and even maintained a forgiving attitude to his tormentors, not only the authorities but also a large portion of the public who treated conscientious objectors as traitors even after the war. (See We will not Cease: The Autobiography of a Conscientious Objector).
At about the same time as the Global Wave will be done at the Peace and Pacifism concert in Dunedin, another New Zealander Alyn Ware will be leading a ‘Wave goodbye to nuclear weapons’ in Ypres, Belgium, where so many New Zealanders lost their lives in World War 1. Every day in Ypres there are morning and afternoon ceremonies to commemorate WWI. And in 2012, former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark spoke at the ceremonyto open the new Flanders Fields Museum there. The Ypres wave will take place at the Mayors for Peace conference – ‘A Century of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Enough!’ The conference commemorates the use of chemical weapons in World War 1 and calls for the elimination of all WMD.
The Global Wave at the Peace and Pacifism Concert in Dunedin will be organised by Marie Nissanka, a student at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. The Centre was established at the University of Otago in 2009 as New Zealand’s first tertiary centre to combine global cross-disciplinary expertise on the issues of development, peace-building and conflict transformation.
Peace and Pacifism Concert: April 24, 7pm. All Saints Anglican Church, 786 Cumberland Street, Dunedin
Concert organisers: Michelle and Richard Jackson
Contact: National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Tel 64 3 479 4546, firstname.lastname@example.org