Sunday, April 24, 2016

At the setting of the sun, it's time to be reminded of the ongoing battles around us

It is the night before ANZAC Day. Across Australia, those who have served in conflicts overseas, their loved ones and people who appreciate the efforts of the men and women in uniform are preparing for a multitude of events and ceremonies tomorrow. Each year, the news reports at the end of April 25 declare that the spirit of the ANZAC - a fierce and unwavering loyalty, a determination to succeed against the odds, a willingness to sacrifice for mates - is alive and well! The tradition, the headlines tell us the next day, continues.

As I type this, I am sitting in a motel room, just off a main road in Toowoomba. Tomorrow, I will attend a dawn service; later on, I will meet some new colleagues at a special ANZAC Day Mass downtown, before heading to Roma, where I will spend the rest of this public, almost spiritual, holiday. Tonight, however, my thoughts have turned to other battles that continue to be waged today.

I am spending the night catching up on some outstanding reading. The pile of literature includes several social justice statements, focusing on different issues, such as environmental sustainability; the exploitation of small-scale miners in a country like the Philippines; the challenges facing lowly paid or unskilled workers and the unemployed; and, finally, the emotional, psychological, physical and mental difficulties faced by those in prison, and those who love them.

To describe these issues as "battles" is not to downplay the harsh realities faced by our soldiers, sailors, pilots and others, who have fought and served overseas, in various wars and military actions. But as my reading reminds me, the above social plights do impact on those affected. Whether someone is behind bars or looking for work, tunneling deep underground in a Filipino mine or lobbying to protect the environment, there is a toll! The victims of these contemporary conflicts may not march, nor carry medals on their chest; but the challenges they face do leave scars!

Tomorrow morning, when I am listening to that poignant bugle blow, I will give thanks for people like my grandfather and a mate's older brother, among the many thousands, who have fought so that I can spend a night with my wife in a country motel. And I will also spare a thought for those who continue to fight today, both here and overseas, for rights and opportunities that we can so easily take for granted. Lest we forget, all that we have is a privilege!

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