Monday 31 January 2011

Anzac Eve Peacemaker Lantern Vigils, Easter Sunday, 24 April 2011

Here is the vision outlined in brief by my friend, the persistent peacemaker, master lantern maker, and experienced event organizer, Graeme Dunstan. This vision first emerged during a gathering of peacemakers at Silver Wattle on the edge of Lake George last year over Anzac Weekend. (See the background report on all that right here.)

For those interested in joining the action in Canberra, yesterday Graeme, his good friend Marie Jack attended the January meeting of the Canberra Interfaith Forum as my guest.  I introduced them and Graeme in turn, introduced this vision to the CIF's agenda.   This was well-received and Graeme followed up with this letter:

Dear Canberra Interfaith Forum folk,

Thank you for receiving Marie and I at the Interfaith Forum meeting on Sunday 30 Jan and being so receptive to our proposal for a Peace Lantern Vigil on Anzac Day eve, 24 April next.

There was much positive interest in the project from various members of the Interfaith Forum and I was asked to put the proposition in writing so that the Forum could consider how it might associate and contribute to the event. Here goes:

The project arises out of concern at the increasing militarisation of Australian society and culture. It is a deep and abiding challenge to all people of faith that we are now, as a nation, committed to war without end.

The terrible truth is that war has been normalised.

At the same time Anzac commemorations have never been more popular. The book What's Wrong with Anzac? The Militarisation of Australian History" by Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds documents the connection. It is the fruit of a calculated and much funded cultural policy by the war promoting governments of Howard, Rudd and Gillard.

What is to be done? How do we faith based peacemakers normalise peace?

At a retreat called Putting an End to War at the Australian Quaker Centre near Bungedore last Anzac weekend, I had a vision of transforming the existing war-affirming liturgy of the Anzac commemoration, not  by countering what exists but rather by adding to it with another event.

To wit, a mass lantern-lit peace parade and vigil on Anzac Day eve at which the voices of soldiers who went to war and returned and spoke for peace are recalled.

Consider this a call to all citizens of goodwill and good faith to become bearers of light for peace on Anzac Day eve next.

How might Interfaith Forum help?

It would be affirming to have your official support and endorsement for the event.

It would be very helpful if you could promote the event by advertising it in your networks of association.

It would be very, very helpful if individual members of the Forum, their families, associates in faith and friends help with the lantern making in the lead up.

A central lantern making workshop will be set up next month (I am still seeking an appropriate location) and individuals and groups, young and old, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Sikkh, Buddhist, or Muslim, indeed anyone and everyone who wants to work for peace, will be invited to give time to help with the lantern making.  Here is a photo of the lanterns I plan to mass produce, these at the Aboriginal Tent Embassy on Australia Day eve.

The making itself will an opportunity for meetings and networking amongst peace activists and it will also offer opportunities for media promotion.

It is possible that the lantern making could be mobile, going to and setting up in schools and with particular activity groups of one kind or another. But easier for this master lantern maker if the would-be lantern makers came to the workshop than he packs/unpacks to take the lantern making elsewhere.

Everywhere I speak about this proposal in Canberra it is received with enthusiasm - the sign of an idea whose time has come.

And it is yet an evolving plan. For example yesterday at a meeting of women peace activists at the Emmaus Church in Dicksen, it was suggested that the Peace Vigil should assemble on top of Mt Ainslie at sunset and process down the mountain to behind the War Memorial and go onto a nearby assembly area. How spectacular that would be with 500 lanterns!

The planning and organisation has only just begun. I see it evolving, growing and going national over the next few years. 10,000 lanterns nationally on Anzac Day eve 2015, the centenary of the Gallipoli landing.

Best we can.

For peace!

Graeme Dunstan
0407 951 688


  1. Australia was founded by the military actually, and its popularity has been the norm and has grown ever since.

  2. “Australia was founded by the military” sounds like hyperbole to me. Australia was founded as a penal colony by the British Crown, which used both military and civil personnel to administer and regulate. By far the majority of new settlers were prisoners, and I find it hard to imagine they were happy about the military presence. As well as the European colonists, there were the Aboriginal inhabitants. Likewise I doubt they held too much affection for the colonial military.

    In any event we are called upon by Christ, not to participate in popularity contests, but to love God, love one another, and bring forth the Kingdom on Earth. I’m not aware of any passage in the Gospels telling us this will be either easy OR popular. I think the idea of restoring Christianity to ANZAC Day is great, prophetic even.

  3. The prisoners were not settlers, but rather prisoners serving time, (most charged unjustly by our standards).
    The land was under the control of the military and was under military law - it was not a free settlement. It employed civilians just as it does today. The military takes control of an area which is under martial law even today,the 'crown' decides which other authorities will govern in such an area.
    No one is free to just move into such an area - as we saw during the recent flash floods west of Brisbane.
    In the case of the first English settlements free settlers had to gain permission to move to the area under control of the military.
    No, the prisoners would not have been happy to be guarded, most prisoners are not.
    The aboriginals were curious, and happy to share and support until the new comers outstayed their welcome as is what happened in North America.
    During Anzac day celebrations, chaplains from most denominations are in attendance, in fact they are the ones who lead the prayers. So Chrisitnaity is represented and is in Anzac day, as they have always been.
    The chaplians make the point during the services that they are not there to glorify war, but to remember the dead and the victims of war.
    It has always been that way since the first Anzac day service.
    As a former Army Officer, during Anzac day, I honour the dead as I would at any funeral service which is what Anzac day was and still is. If you want to protest on Anzac day, I suggest you do it where civilian workers and contractors make the weapons and ammunition, and leave people in peace to remember the dead who died in a useless battle designed and implemented by a civilian. Civilians of Australia and Britian voted for the governments who made war. Please honour the dead.
    You won't find a Chaplain holding a service at a munitions factory on Anzac day.

  4. My comment would be that Anonymous has a strange view of history - the convicts would certainly have not regarded the military, who were really prison officers, with any enthusiasm. Popularity was the norm with whom? The military? Certainly not the convicts and certainly not the Aboriginals.

    Historically the military have had a small place in Australian history. How many military figures have been elected to Parliament or played a leading role in Australian society? the most significant military figures have achieved their status through non-military activity. Major General Stretton for the recovery effort in Darwin after Cyclone Tracy comes to mind.