Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Remembrance Day in my Classroom

On this day when we remember the people who died on a battle field, may we also remember those who died for their faith -- for the freedom to serve God as they believed.

May our 'moment of silence' include not only the ones who lost their lives on a battle field, but also those who bravely stood up for their faith and many times were ridiculed for it; labeled as 'cowards'. I believe it took every bit as much courage to stand firm for their convictions of peace and love, come what may, as those who chose to bear arms and fight. But rarely are conscientious objectors mentioned on this day set aside to remember. It sometimes seems, because they didn't choose the battle field, their sacrifices were all for naught. They didn't go for naught, at least to those of us who believe as they did.
My sister, Elma, freind Kathy and myself near Falkenstein

On or around Remembrance Day, I usually share a story from our history with my K-3 students. This year I chose one which happened in Austria on December 6, 1539 - the Falkenstein account. A very sad story where 90 Hutterite men were forced to leave their community, and were imprisoned at Falkenstein Castle, about 10 Kilometers from their community. I can't even imagine what those women and children must have gone through. Some weeks later the men were marched from Falkenstein to Trieste, Italy, about 480 Kilometers away. There they were imprisoned again, knowing they'd probably end up as slaves on galley ships. By some miracle most were able to escape and returned to Steinebrunn, their home community, which undoubtedly caused great joy, mingled with sadness for the twelve who had been recaptured and were never heard of again.

As I told this story, I carefully left out the parts were the men were cruelly tortured, for I knew that would be too distressing for these young minds. I had my student's rapt attention for the entire time, unlike other times when they have to be reminded to keep listening. It seemed as if they understood, that there was something very special about this story, and wanted to hear it all. After the story, one little girl announced, "My dad said, 'today there will be a moment of silence for the people who died in the war. Maybe we should have a moment of silence, too." I was touched and agreed. We solemnly observed our moment of silence and I was amazed that eleven young, energetic children could stay completely silent for an entire minute.

View from Falkenstein
What really helped me share this story was the fact that I've been to Falkenstein and Steinebrunn and was able to, in a way, bring the story some life with my pictures.

I'll never forget standing in these historical places and thinking about the stories stories of strength, courage and unwavering faith they hold. What a legacy! Looking down on those farm fields and vineyards, I could well imagine Hutterites working them. I wondered what it would be like if Hutterites would live there. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to see these places, which enable me to share these stories in a more meaningful way.
(To read about my time at Steinebrunn and Falkenstein)

 May these heroes of faith always be a source of inspiration as we continue to work for peace.

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