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Forgiveness and Acceptance

A year ago Annie and I went to Anzac Cove, Gallipoli, in Turkey. We saw the beaches, the monuments, the trenches and the graveyards of the fallen, both the Turks and the Anzacs. It was a very moving experience with goose bumps and a sombre mood. We were very emotional. The Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) landed in the early hours of April 25 1915. This battle lasted for eight long months. On August the 3rd 1914, the Prime Minister of Australia stated that “When the Empire is at War, so is Australia at war.” The next day Great Britain entered the war. Australia immediately pledged its support.

On 1 November 1914 the AIF left the shores of Australia. The same month saw The Ottoman Empire (Turkey) join the war on the side of Germany. Russia, Britain’s allied country, was facing an opposition front of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Although large in numbers, Russian forces were struggling against this opposition. They called for help. A plan was devised to have Allied ships sent through the Dardanelles Strait into the Black Sea, to provide supplies and assistance to the Russians. This naval advance went forth in March 1915. A strong Turkish defence meant this objective was a failure, with six battleships sunk and the loss of 700 sailors.

A second plan to send troops ashore along the Gallipoli Peninsula was put into place. Troops were to attack the Turkish defences along the strait, move their way up and eventually capture the capital, Constantinople. British troops were to land at Cape Helles and the Anzacs further north at Gaba Tepe. A force of 75,000 men from the British Empire and France were to be involved.

To make the story short, they failed and thousands of men from both sides lost their lives. It was an ugly battle resulting in the death of husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. After Turkey and her allies’ were defeated in WW1, its last Sultan abdicated his throne on Nov. 1, 1922. On Oct. 29, 1923 the Assembly declared Turkey to be a Republic and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as its first President. He became known as the “Father of Modern Turkey.” In 1934, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, wrote these famous words that reached out to the mothers of his former enemies.

“Those heroes that shed their blood And lost their lives. You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore, rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies And the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side Here in this country of ours, You, the mothers, Who sent their sons from far away countries Wipe away your tears, Your sons are now lying in our bosom And are in peace After having lost their lives on this land they have Become our sons as well”.

When I read these words a year ago in Gallipoli, I said to my wife on my side, ‘these are powerful words of love, forgiveness and acceptance.’ It moved me.

Every year on the 25th of April, Turks, Australians, and New Zealanders gather for a special dawn service to commemorate that day in history. I am glad that the descendants of those that fought at the battle of Gallipoli are present. It is good to see that they honour their loved ones for the sacrifices made for their countries.

Every Anzac Day we often hear these beautiful words from the Scriptures, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Of course this has reference to the supreme expression of Jesus’ love (see v.12) and His sacrificial death on the cross. Believers are called to follow this highest example of sacrificial love and giving toward one another, even if it involves the laying down of one’s life in imitation of Christ’s example.

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