What an amazing story we share as Scouts! We are all members of the world organisation because of a simple promise, to make this world a better place. I have often wondered if Baden-Powell ever imagined a world-wide organisation with more than 35 million members and more than 350 million former members, brothers and sisters united by Scouting. No other organisation in history been able to unite in harmony so many people from so many diverse backgrounds.
It was not until I attended a World Scout Jamboree that I truly understood the global significance of Scouting.
‘Peace cannot be secured entirely by commercial interests, military alliances, general disarmament or mutual treaties, unless the spirit for peace is there in the minds and will of the peoples. This is a matter of education.’
Baden-Powell, opening speech at Kandersteg International Conference, 1926
Scouting was created by a career soldier, born out of his war experience, before becoming a remarkable story of one man’s vision to strive for peace and to begin with education. Indeed, BP’s writings on the horror of war are expressed in exceptionally strong and poignant ways as a man who had followed a military career, fought many battles and returned to England as a hero after victorious campaigns. From his writings it is also clear that he was shaken and profoundly shocked by World War I. It was then that this career soldier turned his mind to peace for the world and for the children of the world.
He clearly saw a link between the development world peace the aim of Scouting. Perhaps recognising that it is often far more difficult to shift the thinking of adults, BP intrinsically knew that it was through a new generation that change might be effected. Fast forward more than 100 years and today we teach those who become Scouts about tolerance, peace and treating all with dignity and respect.
‘Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.’
Constitution of UNESCO, 1945, Preamble 2
BP’s concepts on peace were so deeply rooted in his own mind and so enthusiastically accepted by the Movement’s leaders as it grew, first in Britain and then throughout the world, that they were reflected in the different versions of the World Constitution and adopted by all Scouting countries including Australia. Throughout its history, Scouting has inspired its millions of members to make a difference – applying their leadership to creating a better world.
World Scout Jamborees are perhaps the most distinctive feature of World Scouting and we should ensure that every Venturer has the chance to attend one. Although each World Jamboree has left the participants with indelible memories of friendship and a sense of connectedness, the “Jamboree of Peace” (“Jamboree de la Paix”), held in France in 1947, deserves to be singled out. It was the first to be held after the death of BP, and followed a 10-year interruption, due to the Second World War. It coincided with Indian Scouts celebrating their country’s independence during the Jamboree and saw thousands of Scouts from across the world come together, camping in peace despite the preceding war between many of their countries. For these reasons, and others linked to the program, this Jamboree is historically known as one of symbolism and emotion.
Why were World Jamborees so important to BP? It seems to me that it was about breaking down borders, bringing people together and developing an understanding through human connections. To be Scouts first and foremost, united by one movement, people of the same world rather than of diverse nations.
‘We should take care, in inculcating patriotism into our boys and girls, that is a patriotism above the narrow sentiment which usually stops at one's country, and thus inspires jealousy and enmity in dealing with others... Our patriotism should be of the wider, nobler kind which recognises justice and reasonableness in the claims of others and which lead our country into comradeship with... the other nations of the world. The first step to this end is to develop peace and goodwill within our borders, by training our youth of both sexes to its practice as their habit of life, so that the jealousies of town against town, class against class and sect against sect no longer exist; and then to extend this good feeling beyond our frontiers towards our neighbours.’
The message of peace is one that underpins the World Scout Movement today. World Scouting’s Messengers of Peace Initiative, launched by the World Scout Committee in 2011, aims to inspire the millions of Scouts who are doing amazing things in their local communities to tell the world about it, and thus inspire other Scouts to do even more. Any Scout project that brings a positive change in a community - its health, environment, social circumstances, safety or addresses conflict – is a Messengers of Peace project. Each Scout then is charged with being a messenger of peace in our world today.
This week Australians will stop, pause and remember. It will be ANZAC day. Australians recognise April 25 as an occasion of national remembrance. Commemorative services are held at dawn. Later in the day, ex-servicemen and women meet to take part in marches through the major cities and in many smaller centres. In these ways, Anzac Day is a time when Australians reflect on the many different meanings of war. We stop. We remember. We acknowledge those who have given their lives in wars to protect others, to protect us. We mark and recognise their sacrifice. We acknowledge and give thanks for peace. We pause in the hope that peace remains and we never have to know the atrocity of war again.
Scouts across Victoria will pay their respects at services across the State on ANZAC day, volunteering to assist the veterans marching as a sign of respect for what they and their fallen mates did for us in fighting for their country. While it is a time of Australian remembrance, it is important that we ensure our youth members understand what it is they are doing by attending ANZAC day. It is important our youth understand and know of the sacrifice of similar young men and women, some of whom were Venturer and Rover age, who died in active service for Australia. We are, as Leaders, called to educate and engage with our youth members to discuss why we do what we are doing. This is our 'learning in doing' methodology, which can be lived out through engaging in conversation as we participate alongside our Scouts. ‘Why do we do this each year, do you know?’, ‘What does ANZAC day mean to you?’
If we are to attend ANZAC Day then we owe it to the memory of those who fought and died in service that we ensure we and our youth fully understand what it is we are doing, what it is we are marking. This ensures that the ANZAC story lives on, and is recognised with appropriate respect for their sacrifice. May the spirit of peace they fought for be instilled in all our minds as the Messengers of Peace.
Lest we forget…..