The ceremony at the National World War I Museum & Memorial (Photo: US WWI Centennial Commission)

'In Sacrifice for Liberty and Peace' - US Centennial report from Kansas City

Posted on on 06 April 2017
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Americans have been urged to reunite in remembrance of US sacrifices in the Great War, as Centenary News contributor Dr Jillian Davidson reports from the April 6 national commemorations hosted by the WWI Centennial Commission. 

We congregated at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City as they had congregated originally in 1921, to consecrate the Missourian grounds as the nation’s place for remembering the World War.

In April 1917, America debated its decision to embark on a war that it hoped would end all wars. Acutely aware of unfinished business, we hearkened to a continuing mandate to reunite. 

As Colonel Robert J. Dalessandro, chair of the United States WWI Centennial Commission, proclaimed: "Today, on April 6 2017, one hundred years hence, we assemble in the shadow of this great memorial to hear the voices and relive the human experience that more than any other in modern history fundamentally changed our nation, helped define our national culture and established the world we live in today." 

Speaker after speaker emphasized that the servicemen came from every walk of life, every race, ethnicity and religion. In a pre-ceremony interfaith presentation, local representatives of the major religious traditions convened. 

Rabbi Arthur Nemitoff of Kansas City’s Reform Temple recalled that Friday April 6th, 1917 was Passover eve, the paradigmatic festival of freedom, when Moses prepared to liberate his people from Pharaoh. "On the eve of Passover one hundred years ago, our country embarked upon a similar mission." Rabbi Nemitoff prayed that as we observe this centennial moment, we dedicate ourselves to the journey from slavery to freedom.

Reverend Monsignor Bradley Offutt, a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Kansas City, quoted President Woodrow Wilson’s famous war address to Congress on April 2nd: "It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war. But right is more precious than peace." Monsignor Offutt cautioned that here was the rub, back in 1917 and similarly today. He questioned how we presume to know what is right and how we assess the wager on what we believe is most right. 

Imam Yahya H. Furqan, Commander of The Muslim American Veterans Association (MAVA) in Kansas City, delivered his greetings of peace in the language of the Koran and Arabic: "Asalamalakim, may peace be upon you." He effused pride to be both a Muslim and American, blessing those who served our nation in a camaraderie that many of us will never know.

Chaplain Colonel Barbara Sherer, a military chaplain of the Protestant faith, reflected upon the pre-World War One era when people lived in fear of what lay beyond their borders. She prayed that we "hear once again the words of Woodrow Wilson so that as we contemplate our role in this world we have no selfish ends to serve" in our path to peace.

This religious tone dominated throughout, perhaps befitting a ceremony dedicated to sacrifices. Thus the Honorable Emanuel Cleaver, United Methodist Pastor and Representative of Missouri State, echoed Apostle Paul’s belief that there is a great gathering in heaven of our forbearers: “it is my hope that there is a great gathering at this very moment that can observe us praising them."

Images courtesy of US WWI Centennial Commission