A Forever Armistice in the War Against Children. Armistice Day event – 11.11.22

Christine Venner-Westerway, Queensland Regional Meeting

The Rememberance Day meeting.

Armistice Day 2022 clocked up a seven-consecutive-year tradition of holding a people’s way of marking Armistice Day and four consecutive years holding it at the Kelvin Grove Meeting House.  Mervyn Landford (Muriel Langford’s son) began this tradition together with Aunty Delmae Barton (Bidjara Elder and Song-Woman), Trish Ferrier and Anna Heriot from BrisWest (an independent voluntary organisation), and myself from the Quaker community. We spend many months each year discerning what the focus will be and crafting a ceremony around that. The theme that arose this year was “a forever armistice in the war against children”.

are Once again, we had a full house and were gifted with fine weather, enabling full use of the Meeting House grounds for individual nourishment and reflection as part of the day’s gathering. The driveway was lined with the “Children of the Gulf War” photo exhibition on loan from Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) Journalling, reading and drawing spaces were set up and the magnificent rain-revitalised forest beckoned.

 We spoke about our children because we need to understand that all the young offspring of the world, of whatever species, are our children, our responsibility, our beloveds and our future.  The question to ask is, how can we love all the children? Mine, yours, theirs, all the young of every being and entity. We reminded the gathering that across the world our children are abducted into slave labour and the sex trade, raped within their own families and communities, forced to become child soldiers and suicide bombers, flee their homelands as refugees of persecution, war or climate catastrophe, and are held in detention in camps under appalling conditions. Here in Australia, through our ill-named Youth Justice system, children as young as ten are subject to violence and unconscionable solitary confinement. The majority of these children are from First Nations families and communities. In all these situations, the result is all too frequently severe mental collapse, physical illness and death, self-harm and suicide.

 Aunty Delmae spoke and sang an acknowledgement of country, and shared her heart wisdom and heartache for our Earth’s children.  Eleven bells were struck carving out a 2-minute silence. Participants were then invited to spend 25 minutes by themselves silently exploring and expressing their own grief, longing, honouring and hope for our children.  Many took advantage of the spaces and materials and provided within and without the Meeting House.  After this the exquisite voices of the Brisbane Threshold Singers gathered us back indoors to share our personal reflections to the wider group akin to the ‘manner of Friends’. This two-part process was book-ended with the recordings of the late Archie Roache’s heart-rending songs “Weeping in the Forest” and “Took the Children Away”.  We concluded with the sound of Aunty Delmae weeping for our children, many of whom are no more.

Each year we hear that those who attend do so out of a need, a hunger even, for silence, calm, and deep listening and sharing. There is strength in collective grieving, remembering and honouring.  Earth’s children unreservedly need and deserve our intentional holding up, our deliberate gaze, our nurturing and protection. We hope you will journey with us in 2023.

Aunty Delmae weeping for the children

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