Remembrance Day

I was invited by the Scottish Government to speak at their Ceremony of Remembrance earlier today at St. Andrew’s House in Edinburgh. It’s the first time that a humanist has ever been part of an official event of this kind, so it was a great honour.  

The Armistice was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, so it seems fitting that on the 99th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the sacrifices which have been made, and which continue to be made by non-religious members of the Armed Forces are finally being recognised.
I wrote this poem as part of my contribution. It’s called 11/11, and the full text goes like this.
To the nameless millions who
lie in mass graves,
From the Forest of Katyn,
to the Killing Fields of Cambodia,
From Treblinka to Shatila:
We will remember you.
To the prisoners of
conscience, caged for their beliefs,
The peace protestors, shot by
their own side
The secretly imprisoned, and
the illegally tortured:
We will remember you.
To the desperate refugees
fleeing persecution,
Tutsi and Hutu,
Rohingya and Yazidi:
We will remember you
To the ones who didn’t choose
to die for their country
To Jane Doe and Seamus
From the Twin Towers to the
Twin Rivers,
We will remember you.
To the innocent bystanders,
the collateral damage,
From the ghetto to Aleppo,
From Guernica to Raqqa,
We will remember you.
To the guests struck by drones
on their way to the wedding,
The shoppers shot by snipers
in the market square,
To the children killed by
landmines as they played in the street:
We will remember you
To the lions led by donkeys,
Tommy Atkins, Jack Tar, and GI
To the unknown soldiers and sailors,
air men and women,
Black, brown and white,
We will remember you.
From the flowers of the forest
To the fallen men of Flanders
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning,
We will remember you.

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