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This Month in History Around the World - APRIL



by Sally Sumner


Nz’s First Poppy Day

One Hundred Years Ago, on April 24th 1922, New Zealand held its first Poppy Day. It followed an international effort led by French woman, Madame Guérin who was a well-known touring lecturer and fundraiser, who split her time between living in the USA and France during the First World War. She was a director of the “American and French Children’s League”, which was the US branch of the French charity “La Ligue des enfants de France et d’Amérique” founded in November or December 1918. The emblem chosen for the charity was a poppy. She made arrangements for the “American and French Childrens’ League” to make the first nationwide distribution across America of the poppies made in France. The funds raised from this venture went directly to the League to help orphaned children and the rehabilitation and resettlement of the areas of France devastated by the First World War. Millions of these French-made artificial poppies were distributed in America by the League between 1920 and 1924.

Colonel Alfred S. Moffatt took the idea to the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association in September 1921 who accepted it with great enthusiasm and an order for 350,000 small and 16,000 large silk poppies was placed with Madame Guerin’s French Children’s League.

A total of 245,059 small poppies and 15,157 larger versions were sold, earning £13,166 (equivalent to $1.34 million in 2020). Of that amount, £3695 ($376,000) was sent to help war-ravaged areas of northern France; the remainder went to unemployed New Zealand returned soldiers from WW1 and their families.

Unlike the practice in other countries, the NZRSA did not hold its inaugural Poppy Appeal in association with Armistice Day (11 November). The shipment arrived too late for Poppy Day to be properly promoted prior to Armistice Day, so the NZRSA decided to hold it on the day before Anzac Day 1922.

The first Poppy Day was a ‘brilliant success’. The annual Poppy Day Appeal – now usually held on the Friday before Anzac Day – has become the NZRSA’s primary means of raising funds for the welfare of returned service personnel and their dependents.

The RSA will be out and about this year again selling poppies and there will be remembrance services in most areas. You can check out more here. https://www.rsa.org.nz/

Easter

On Sunday April 17th, New Zealanders will be enjoying a long weekend because of the ‘movable feast’ known as Easter. Celebrated in the Christian calendar as the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the festival has its origins in pagan times as a festival celebrating spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

People have long celebrated equinoxes and the solstices as sacred times and with the advent of Christianity, the Spring festivals with the theme of new life and relief from the cold of winter became connected explicitly to Jesus having conquered death by being resurrected after the crucifixion. In 325AD the first major church council, the Council of Nicaea, determined that Easter should fall on the Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox, hence the reason why the date always changes.

Both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are restricted trading days in New Zealand and Easter Monday is a public holiday. Schools have the added Tuesday as a holiday if it doesn’t fall in the school holidays.

Easter is undoubtedly the most important date in the Christian calendar, although no mention of the actual word is found in the Bible. Easter is a holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He was crucified on an order by the governor of the Roman province of Judaea. The Bible says while Pilate initially couldn’t find any reason to put him to death, there was growing unrest amongst the Jewish leaders about his growing influence claiming to be ‘Kind of the Jews.’ Pilate permitted the crowd to choose between a condemned convict named Barabbas and Jesus. The crowds choose Jesus and he was crucified. Three days later he rose from the dead and appeared to his followers on various occasions, fulfilling various prophesies from the Bible and creating the cornerstone for the Christian faith as quoted in John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.”

If you want to check out a Church Service this Easter and find out more about the true meaning of Easter go along to one of the many services in the area.

NATO – A Treaty for Our Time

On April 4th 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military alliance was first signed in Washington D.C. by 12 founding member countries. It sought to create a counterweight to Soviet armies stationed in central and eastern Europe after World War II. Its original members were Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Initially a collective-defense alliance between Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg and signed in 1948 this was recognized as inadequate to deter Soviet aggression, and in 1949 the U.S. and Canada agreed to join their European allies in an enlarged alliance. A centralized administrative structure was set up, and three major commands were established, focused on Europe, the Atlantic, and the English Channel (disbanded in 1994). The admission of West Germany to NATO in 1955 led to the Soviet Union’s creation of the opposing Warsaw Treaty Organization, or Warsaw Pact.

Because NATO ground forces were smaller than those of the Warsaw Pact, the balance of power was maintained by superior weaponry, including intermediate-range nuclear weapons. After the Warsaw Pact’s dissolution and the end of the Cold War in 1991, NATO withdrew its nuclear weapons and attempted to transform its mission. It involved itself in the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty stated that an attack on one signatory would be regarded as an attack on the rest, and this article was first invoked in 2001 in response to the terrorist September 11 attacks against the U.S.

Additional countries have since joined NATO to bring the number of full members to 30 with 3 aspiring states. France withdrew from military participation in 1966 but rejoined NATO’s integrated military command in 2009. NATO is at the centre of world politics once again after Russia launched a ‘full scale invasion’ of Ukraine. Russia had asked for assurances that Ukraine would not join the group’s defence alliance and asked that they do not expand any further east.

However, the West rejected Russia’s demand, stating that any independent country is free to join the defence alliance. Although, western leaders - including President Joe Biden - did offer negotiations on NATO’s positioning within Europe.


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elocal Digital Edition – April 2022 (#252)

elocal Digital Edition
April 2022 (#252)


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