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You’ll find a war memorial in every town or city in New Zealand. Whether the place has over a million people, or a population of just a couple of dozen, there’ll be a monument, plaque, stone or cross to commemorate those soldiers who lost their lives in the First or Second World War.

Where are the peace memorials?

We celebrate war. We honour soldiers. Our television screens are filled with scenes of conflict from all parts of the world. War stories sell newspapers and fill cinemas. The whole country closes for Anzac Day morning every April 25. Major exhibitions are on in museums to mark a hundred years since Gallipoli. Everywhere you look there are images and reminders of war.

Often these are accompanied by words like ‘honour’, ‘bravery’, ‘courage’, ‘service’ and ‘hero’. Fighting, it seems, is something heroic and honourable – and there are places in every town to remind us of how important it is to be hostile and aggressive (if you do it for your country, that it…).

But where are the peace memorials?

Not everyone wants a fight. Thousands of people throughout New Zealand history from the non-violent protests of Te Whiti and Tohu at Parihaka to those who objected to New Zealand’s involvement in the two main wars of the 20th century, through to more recent anti-war, anti-nuclear and anti-racism demonstrations, have shown that we are a people who want – and actively seek – peace.

At school, students are taught and encouraged to find peaceful solutions to their problems or to sort out playground issues sensibly. Sometimes these work, sometimes they don’t. But aggression is not encouraged; in fact, it’s punished.

Yet in the world beyond the school gates, we are constantly reminded of the remarkable achievements of New Zealand soldiers – fighters.

Lessons learned in school about finding peaceful solutions, along with greater understanding of the role that peaceful protestors played throughout the history of our country, must be promoted.

Every town and city needs its peace memorial.

Article written by Ben Egerton

This is an opinion-based article designed to provoke debate, discussion and further inquiry
amongst your students:

Critical Thinking Challenges:

1. Do we have double standards as a society? We want citizens to be peaceful, yet we have soldiers who are trained to be the very opposite of that.

2. What do you think? Are peace memorials are good idea? Why not go a step further and have, like Anzac Day, a national peace day?

3. Why are soldiers portrayed as heroes?

4. Is promoting peace really an achievable thing?

5. What is so interesting about war?

Practical Tasks:

1. Design a peace memorial.

2. What would be the best way of promoting a national peace day? How could your school get involved? What would you do to commemorate it?

3. A university in Australia has just set up an online peace museum. If you were to open a museum to celebrate peace, what would you put in it?

4. What happened at Parihaka?

Have Your Say:

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10 Responses

  1. it is quite hard to pick a vote as the two answers both have quite good points. But I think that war memorials are to remember those who died in these wars.

  2. I think that there should be Peace Memorials in every city/town/state. Why? I think there should be because, in War, the purpose is to kill but if I was to kill my neighbor, I go to jail yet if I go to War and kill hundreds of people, I get a medal. I can’t understand.

  3. Both sides have a point, but if you think about it, war memorials ARE peace memorials. They symbolise those who returned from war, and played a part in bringing peace to our country.

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