We need a more inclusive Remembrance Day

A new report ahead of Remembrance Day is recommending a deeper and more meaningful form of remembrance that encompasses both soldiers and civilians on all sides in all wars.

Released today (2nd November) by the thinktank Ekklesia, its suggestions include an honest acknowledgement that some did “die in vain”, an end to “selective remembrance” and making Armistice Day a bank holiday. It follows the death of the “last Tommy”, Harry Patch, who described Remembrance Day as “just show business”.

Remembrance has been ‘cheapened’ it says by a failure to back up words with action, particularly when it comes to successive Government’s care for war veterans, but also the lack of resources put into peacebuilding.

It traces the development of Britain’s remembrance tradition and makes a series of proposals about how Remembrance Day might be updated and made more accessible to future generations, making the way we remember war more truthful and inclusive.

• A greater equality in remembrance to incorporate all those affected by war, including those on both sides and civilians, conscientious objectors, and those executed for ‘cowardice’

• The language used in remembrance should be more truthful. Words like ‘glorious’ should no longer be used. There should also be an acknowledgement that some did “die in vain” and an end to automatic references about all soldiers giving “their lives for the freedom we enjoy today”.

• Churches should resist the misappropriation of religious language in remembrance. Where it is used it should be qualified carefully, particularly with regard to words like “sacrifice”, which should not be used to condone violence.

• Following other examples from around the world a far greater commitment should be made to peace

• Churches that have bishops and chaplains to the armed forces, should also provide them for the “unarmed forces”, those who work as peacemakers and peacebuilders without weapons

• Remembrance should encompass groups who are often excluded. The environmental impact of war, including ecological damage and millions of animals slaughtered should also be more widely acknowledged

• Churches and others involved in remembrance events and services should make a greater variety of symbols available such as white and purple poppies alongside red ones

• There should be an end to ‘selective remembrance’ where the more shameful aspects of war are forgotten

• Armistice Day should become a bank holiday

“We can remember well, or we can remember badly” said Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley. “The case of Harry Patch highlighted how veterans and others have been effectively excluded from Remembrance down the years. Many want to remember, but they are unable to join in the corporate recollection because of the values and politics that accompany the traditions.

“It is naïve to believe that our remembrance has not been shaped by political perspectives and certain values about war. If we want future generations to remember, we need to acknowledge this, and adapt our traditions accordingly. This will mean deciding what we need to hold onto from the past, but also making tough decisions about what is unhelpful and should be discarded.

“Remembrance that does not tell the truth or match words with actions is cheap, and fails to honour those who died. Remembrance that excludes people because we feel uncomfortable with what they did is deceitful. We need a more honest, equal, and inclusive remembering.”

You can read the report in full here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/ReimaginingRemembrance.pdf

Notes to Editors

1. Ekklesia is a member of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations (NCPO) committed to furthering peace and encouraging churches to support the peace movement

2. Formed in 2001, Ekklesia was listed by The Independent newspaper in 2005 as among 20 influential UK think-tanks. According to Alexa/Amazon, it has one of the most-visited religious current affairs websites in Britain. It runs a news and comment service, examining religion in public life, and raises £250,000 a year for peace & justice causes