On November 11th every year it is Remembrance Day, and on Sunday 13th November this year, Britain celebrates Remembrance Sunday. Remembrance Sunday is a day “to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts”. Both Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday are for the nation to remember and honour those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom.
Remembrance Sunday is a part of modern British life, culture and heritage. Every year, it becomes a particular feature of the public calendar. There are a number of Remembrance events taking place throughout the UK in the run up to Remembrance Sunday, and on the day itself.
One of the ways thousands of people pay their respects every year, is by buying and wearing a red poppy. This is because in the spring of 1915 a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields to write a now famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’. After the First World War, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.
I wear a poppy every year, to pay my respects to those who have lost their lives. I grew up with a lot of respect for the military services, due to having family members serving in the army. I even wanted to be a solider myself for a very short time when I was younger.
As I’ve grown older though, I’ve read and learnt a lot of things that worry me, and things that I don’t quite agree with about war.
Almost 100 years after the end of the “war to end all wars” we still have a long way to go to put an end to a social institution, that even in the last decade has added to the killing of millions. Today, over 90% of people killed in warfare are civilians. Innocent men, women and children.
The best way to respect the victims of war, in my opinion, is to work to prevent war in the present and the future. The underlying causes of warfare, such as poverty, inequality and competition over resources, need to be tackled.
The more I looked into it, the more I realised that many of the activities around Remembrance Day/Sunday are detached from any meaningful attempts to learn the lessons of war. Which is when I first found out about white poppies.
White poppies symbolise peace. There are three aspects to the meaning of white poppies: they represent remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and challenges attempts to embellish or celebrate war. White poppies remember and recognise all victims of all wars, including victims of wars that are still being fought today. This includes people of all nationalities. It includes both civilians and members of armed forces.
“In wearing White Poppies, we remember all those killed in war, all those wounded in body or mind, the millions who have been made sick or homeless by war and the families and communities torn apart. We also remember those killed or imprisoned for “refusing to fight and for resisting war”.”
White poppies symbolise the principle that there are better ways to resolve conflict than through the use of violence. They embody values that reject killing fellow human beings for whatever reason.
Violence only breeds more violence.
That is why I will be wearing a white poppy.
White poppies for peace; for peace between all human beings, for peace on Earth.
“Mere praise of peace is easy, but ineffective. What is needed is active participation in the fight against war and everything that leads to it.” Albert Einstein.
Lest We Forget.