Border Mail Column Wednesday 27 April 2011
On Easter Sunday I, along with millions of Christians throughout the world, attended church to celebrate the resurrection of Christ.
This day, along with Christmas Day and Good Friday is one of the most seminal in the Christian calendar bringing the message that God made the ultimate sacrifice; that of the life of his son to save humankind.
But this year the whole experience of Easter, especially in Australia, shared the limelight with Anzac Day prompting comments that the Christian celebration was overshadowed by the secular remembrance of those who gave their lives at Gallipoli and in all of the conflicts Australia has been involved in since that fateful day.
This concern wasn’t one of ‘don’t rain on God’s parade’, but rather an acknowledgment that in our increasingly secular society, better known events in the Christian calendar face more and more competition.
It’s not the first time that Easter and Anzac Day have fallen in the same week: the first Anzac Day commemoration in 1916 fell just two days after Easter Sunday, but at that time there was far less separation of the Christian celebration and Anzac Day.
Then 96 per cent of the Australian population of five million identified as Christian with a large percentage of them attending church; at the last census that number had dropped to 64 per cent of our population of just over twenty million.
There are some commentators who believe that the uncanny timing of that first Anzac Day and Easter Sunday has contributed to the almost religious nature of the commemoration of the troops who lost their lives in what is acknowledged as one of the worst military defeats of the allies in World War 1.
Anzac Day and Easter Sunday have fallen in the same week just 10 times in the 95 years since that first commemoration.
Yet, the two events may have something in common: they force us to pause, reflect, and perhaps even re-evaluate our lives.
Preparation for Easter begins with Lent; the forty days Christ spent in the desert being tempted by the devil, but also a time when Christ knew what his fate was to be.
He was crucified, died and was buried, but on the third day rose from the dead and his resurrection brings a constant message that there is always hope.
As the Anzacs prepared for their assault on what turned out to be over a kilometre north of their planned objective, they had no idea of the carnage which lay ahead of them.
By the time the troops withdrew eight months later almost 9,000 Anzac lives had been lost and more than 27 thousand wounded.
But their sacrifice inspired others and just three months later more than 35,000 men enlisted in the war effort.
During its almost 100 year history attitudes to Anzac Day have swung from a day of pride, to in the 1970’s an abhorrence by some that a massive military defeat appeared to be celebrated, back to its status today where not only the Diggers of Gallipoli, but those Australians killed or injured in any conflict are remembered.
This year too representatives of our country including the Prime Minister and Governor General marked the day in various countries throughout the world; as with Easter, the spirit of the remembrance reached well beyond our own shores.
Whatever our faith or thinking the two days may be bound together through the spirit of sacrifice and an enduring sense of gratitude, giving an opportunity to feel a solid connection sometimes hard to find in the transience of today’s world.