Pax Christi in Australia initiates Anzac Centenary
This year, Pax Christi Australia has initiated the Anzac Centenary Coalition, a campaign to "retell the Australian narrative" by presenting a view of history which is an alternate view to the one being officially promoted.
In April, the Australian Pax Christi section held a public forum entitled "Who is Australia? Who might we become?" One speaker told of many achievements between Federation (when Australia became The Commonwealth of Australia) in 1901 and the beginning of WWI in 1914. Another spoke of the composition of Australia's population today, 40 percent of whom have no connection with the Anzac story.
There are more public fora planned in the coming months. Resources are being disseminated, including a set of lessons "The Enduring Effects of War" for mid-high school students. This was commissioned by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (MAPW). Members are writing short articles for various publications and preparing leaflets to distribute. The Australian Pax Christi supports and publicizes initiatives of other groups, such as an online peace museum which will be launched soon. Another group of academics has created a website called "Honest History".
Pax Christi Australia and others have come to the conclusion that an Independent Australia means being a good global citizen. And a good global citizen may be independently minded but is prepared to work with others for the common good.
How are the Coalition's ideas different from the official views? Firstly Pax Christi Australia is being told that "Australia as a nation was born at Gallipoli" and that "it helped to define us as a people and as a nation". For the centenary next year there will be lavish events to "celebrate" this. As Pax Christi Australia sees it, Gallipoli in 1915 was Australia's contribution to the British Empire's campaign to invade Turkey in order to facilitate Russia’s access to the Black Sea. Sixty thousand Australian military personnel died during WWI, while others returned home physically and psychologically maimed, only to be abandoned along with indigenous combatants who accompanied them. Pax Christi Australia mourns these dead, the loss of these young lives all their friends and families who also suffered. There is nothing to celebrate here, according to the Australian Pax Christi.
Pax Christi Australia feels that Australia is not founded in the war of 1915, rather on the good which so many past, present and future continue to contribute to society. In the fourteen years before WWI nation-building efforts included introducing equal political rights for women, old age and invalid pensions, maternity benefits for all women as well as the concept of a ‘living wage’ for all.