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Chaplain on the front line this Anzac Day

Chaplain Alamoti Lavaki. Photo courtesy of the Australian Department of Defence
LIKE EASTER less than a month earlier, Anzac Day is a cultural marker for thousands of Australians.

For some, either (or both) of these dates can provide a focus for life’s deepest meaning or purpose.

Captain Alamoti Lavaki is serving in Afghanistan as the Uniting Church padre for the current Reconstruction Task Force.

Capt Lavaki sees cultural connection for those of faith, and those without, in the historic and enduring values of Anzac.

“For me Anzac Day follows the example of what Easter is about,” he said via phone from Afghanistan.

“The favourite reading for Anzac Day is, ‘There is no such love better than this; he gave up his life for his friends’.

“These soldiers are sacrificing their lives and family relationships that others in this world might have some peace, to make a difference out of care and love for the people here in Afghanistan.”

For many Australians who would not acknowledge God, Anzac Day provides a spiritual, or perhaps quasi-religious, occasion.

“In the midst of feeling hopeless, at Easter with the bright dawn we see a new life of salvation, freedom and that sort of thing.

“I can see that too in the way we do the Anzac service in the dawn; not only remembering what they did but celebrating the freedom earned for us.”

Three months into an eight month tour of duty with the Reconstruction Task Force, he is well aware of the difference between Afghanistan and Gallipoli. Dealing with terrorism is vastly different to a war between nations.

“The focus is still the same,” he said. “Making a difference in people’s lives in regard to freedom and to have peace.”

If the Christian hopes for transformation, Capt Lavaki at least sees change for the most vulnerable; poor women and children who were brutally marginalised under the Taliban regime.

“In small villages people don’t understand what’s going on, but they feel safe when the Australian soldiers are near.

“The situation in which they live has been improving with regard to medical [provisions] and buildings, bridges, etc.

“They’re little things but they bring joy.”

Far from the banners and flags of the Brisbane parade, Anzac Day was stripped back in Tarin Kowt. So was Easter without chocolate or vestments.

There was no public holiday or hoopla to distract from the significance of commemoration and celebration.

Photo : Chaplain Alamoti Lavaki. Photo courtesy of the Australian Department of Defence