Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Remembrance service in Abu Dhabi honours fallen soldiers around the world

'We must honour the memories of people from all nationalities without being jingoistic about war', service is told

Large crowds gathered on Sunday at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi to remember those who lost their lives in conflicts around the world.

Representatives from the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths, military officials, diplomats, residents, pupils and families braved the winds and rain to mark the day.

Remembrance Sunday traditionally honours British and Commonwealth war dead from the two world wars and later conflicts. But the St Andrew’s service reflected the diversity of the UAE and remembered many other conflicts and war dead.

The Rev Andy Thompson, senior chaplain at St Andrew’s, said it was important to remember all who had been affected by war.

“Living overseas means we are part of a wider community,” Mr Thompson. “And many other nationalities will have lost people in war and have had family members serving in other armies.

“This year also marks the Year of Tolerance and that is what soldiers fought for – liberation from tyranny and intolerance.”

The event is held every year on the Sunday closest to November 11, or Armistice Day, which marks the end in 1918 of the First World War.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Nahyan, who attended on behalf of his father, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the UAE’s Minister of Tolerance, said the world must move away from the politics of division.

“Remembering belongs to all of us,” said Sheikh Mohammed. “We honour the memory of the fallen and pledge to care for the living. And we remember that our strength lies in diversity.”

British ambassador to the UAE Patrick Moody laid a wreath to the fallen during the service.

“We are here to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice” said Mr Moody, who comes from a military family. “And it is great to see all sides coming together to respect and remember.”

Also in attendance was the new US ambassador to the UAE, John Rakolta.

“I am here to honour the fallen,” said Mr Rakolta, who took up the post a few weeks ago. “Man had to learn these lessons [of war] more than once. We hope we don’t have to learn them again.”

Ceremonies took place around the world to mark the day. It is also 75 years since critical battles of the Second World War such as D-Day – the Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied Germany and Monte Cassino – a brutal and costly fight by the Allies to recapture a German-held fortress in Italy.

We are here to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice

Patrick Moody

Capt Jim Lowther, British defence attache in Abu Dhabi, said the service also resonated for the UAE given the huge sacrifices made by Emirati soldiers.

“It is striking how current [this event] is for the Emiratis,” said Capt Lowther. “Look at Wahat Al Karama. It is real here too. They understand sacrifice.”

Remembrance Sunday services have been held at St Andrew’s for more than five decades. This year's service included a reading in Hebrew by a representative of the Jewish faith.

For Mr Thompson, Remembrance Sunday is the hardest service of the year.

“I am speaking to a diverse group of people and it must be meaningful for a child all the way through to people of different nationalities who have different narratives of the war,” he said.

“We must honour their memory without being jingoistic. We recall the sacrifice without any triumphalism. To convey that and within the Christian faith is especially challenging when members of other faiths are present.”

Updated: November 11, 2019 12:37 PM

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