Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the official end of the World War I hostilities on November 11, 1918. World War I was a massive conflict was played out over the whole globe, but particularly in Europe, where troops from Canada supported the Allied forces.
World War I resulted in the loss of huge numbers of lives amongst both civilians and military personnel. Many more people were badly injured. The war left great emotional scars in the servicemen, who had experienced it, and in the communities, whose sons, brothers, fathers, uncles and even grandfathers had died. Remembrance Day commemorates those who died in armed conflicts, particularly in and since World War I.
In Canada, November 11 is officially called Remembrance Day, but it is also known as Armistice Day and Poppy Day.
Remembrance Day is symbolized by the artificial poppies that people wear and place at war memorials. The poppies may be worn or placed singly or as wreaths. The use of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance comes from a poem written by John McCrae, a Canadian doctor serving in the military. Flanders Fields is a common English name of the World War I battlefields in Belgium and France. The poem is called In Flanders Fields and describes the poppies growing in the Flemish graveyards where soldiers were buried.
Here is John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Poppies grow well in soil that has been disturbed. They also grew in large numbers on battle fields. The red color of their petals reminded people of the blood lost by victims of and casualties in the conflict. Some people choose to wear white poppies to campaign for non-military interventions in conflict situations.
My friends, do you know how many years there have been in history without war? War is defined as an active conflict that has claimed more than 1,000 lives. Has the world ever been at peace? Of the past 3,400 years, humans have been entirely at peace for 268 of them, or just 8 percent of recorded history. However, violence and conflict happen everywhere daily.
Let us begin our work for peace with Prayer. Here is the Prayer for the Remembrance – a prayer for world peace (The Church of England):
O God of the nations,
as we look to that day when you will gather people
from north and south, east and west,
into the unity of your peaceable Kingdom,
guide with your just and gentle wisdom all who take counsel
for the nations of the world,
that all your people may spend their days in security, freedom, and peace,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.