I was born in Malta which is strategically located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. For thousands of years empires and cultures fought each other around the shores and in the middle of the sea. Malta was often part of these conflicts for thousands of years.
The Cold War was around its peak during my childhood, and NATO had a base in Malta with Soviet ships in the waters around. Some of the ruins of World War II were still around when I was a boy.
Five minutes walk from our house was the commonwealth cemeteries with ANZACS buried there from World War I.
I grew up with war stories from my parents. They had seen much! No place on earth was bombed more than Malta per square mile during World War II.
I had grown up with stories of valour from the centuries of war with the Ottoman Empire where my ancestors would have been very directly involved. The Turks were ‘traditional and historical enemies’.
When I was still very young, I was very surprised to discover that Turkish people moved next door to us. The father of the family worked for NATO. They had a son named Barbarossa who was about my age. Much to my surprise they looked like normal people! They were not the ‘monsters’ of history that legends had spoken of. Barbarossa and I became friends.
When they moved a second Turkish family moved in. They had two children, Mimi and Mustapha. I also became friends with them. This was the 1950’s.
ANZAC DAY is a time when we remember those who gave their lives in the defence of others, and rightly so!
Standing up to tyrants like Hitler and Stalin, and others, makes sense.
As Christians we are also called to universal love and forgiveness.
There is such a thing as a just war. What this means has been hotly debated and our understanding has changed over the years. There is still much discussion about war, and the Christian attitude to it. There are no simple answers.
As a young boy I learnt to move beyond my prejudice and pre-conceptions about the people next door.
Fact and Fiction can become blurred!
We need in good conscience, and with wisdom and an open heart, to continue as Christians reflecting on how we relate to violence and war. Meantime, it is important that we treat with great respect and gratitude those who sacrificed much. So much of this was for freedom that we now enjoy. Many did the ultimate sacrifice and gave up their lives. Others carry terrible psychological and physical scars to this very day.
They need our gratitude, respect and prayers.
We pray for all those who died as a result of war.
Each of us needs to be an ambassador for peace in the environments where we live, starting with our neighbours.
God Bless you today.
Bishop of Darwin