April 24 is Remembrance Day for the Armenian Genocide. The date marks the official beginning of the genocide on April 24, 1915 when Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople were rounded up for deportation. I am not Armenian, but I do understand the importance of a Remembrance Day.
Lest We Forget
As part of the Commonwealth*, we in Canada hold Remembrance Day every November 11th. It started in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Over the next 98 years, other wars and armed conflicts were included in the commemorations. Early on, the poppy became a symbol of remembrance, thanks to the popularity of the poem “In Flanders Fields”, written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in 1915. Each year the sale of poppies helps support veterans and their families. At least one stanza of the poem “Ode of Remembrance” by Laurence Binyon, written in 1914, is recited during the annual ceremony:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
The Importance of Remembrance
Remembrance ceremonies are solemn affairs, and the prolonged silences allow much time for personal reflection. In general, Remembrance Day is:
- a tribute to all casualties of war, military and civilian alike
- a time to give thanks to all those who fought and survived
- a time to honour and revere those who died
- an opportunity to thank those who helped survivors survive
- a day when we come together to show our solidarity
- an acknowledgement that peace and liberty are often achieved by confronting evil through individual and collective self-sacrifice
- a reminder of how precious life is, and how lucky we the living are
- a reminder of our duty to educate future generations of the high cost of violence and hatred, and the tremendous need for respect for all people and decency in our sense of humanity
Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day
In 2015 on the 100th anniversary of the genocide, a stylized forget-me-not flower was adopted as the symbol of remembrance and solidarity. As Armenians the world over remember and honour their fallen forbearers, survivors and those who helped them, they do not stand alone.
* Formerly known as the British Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of Nations is an organization of 52 member states, most of which were former territories of the British Empire.