Scottish Government Remembrance Day Ceremony
January 27, 2024
Scottish Retreats - Celebrate People

Our co-founder, Susan Douglas-Scott CBE addressed the Scottish Government ceremony on Friday 10th November 2023.

Thank you, Permanent Secretary, for asking me to be a part of this ceremony today to share thoughts on peace, remembrance, love.  My reflections focus on our similarities, the values we share across cultures rather than anything that divides us.

Around this time every year we as a world remember the atrocities of war and seek to honour those who have suffered.  My white poppy reminds us of all military personnel, civilians and animals who have sacrificed their wellbeing and lives because of war.

Ceremonies like this one today are important, lest we forget, so I offer my thanks and gratitude to the Scottish Government for this opportunity.  

For me this kind of ritual also gives us space to remember the connections we all have, as the people who share this world.  Many of us do believe in peace, that peace is possible even in these dark times that many souls face.  Let’s be grateful as we gather here today in Scotland, in safety. 

The Dalai Lama tells us that all major religious and belief traditions carry basically the same important message of love, compassion and forgiveness and he urges us to include these as part of our daily lives.  

With this in mind let me offer you peace. May peace be with you. Salaam; Shalom; Mir; Muir; Om Shanti: peace to you all every day in every year of your life and mine, in the lives of all beings in this world. 

Let us together sent wishes of peace to all those struggling with war to those in Gaza, Palestine, Israel, Russia and Ukraine to name but a few. All war creates tragic outcomes for humanity. Wars and borders are man-made creations that since time began have caused war. As human beings we all just want to live our lives, enjoying the space around us, the people, animals and lands that sustain us. 

We all just need to be ourselves be rather than to be created into something other.  We are naturally loving, supportive, connected as one race of human beings.  Some of us sadly get seduced by the negativity that exists in the world and it’s the juxtaposition of our natural way of being and the choices we make as we grow from innocent children into adults, that in this space, violence and war finds its beginnings.  

Those of us who seek to nurture the spaces between us, to fill those with love, empathy, compassion and peace must continue our journeys to help these values be felt everywhere.  As Gandhi urged us, be the change you want to see in the world.  Those of us in this room have the privilege to make this choice.  

I was in France on holiday until yesterday and celebrated the connection with Marie Curie, a renowned humanist amongst her passions, let me share some of her words:

“We cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals.  To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity.”

One area I suggest we can all work on improving is our understanding about forgiveness. What I know is that forgiveness can be elusive; it often takes great courage, and too many of us avoid it.  However, when we do, engaging forgiveness can be transformative.  

You may remember when it was broadcast across the world – that when 85-year-old Israeli peace activist Yocheved Lifshitz was released from captivity last month, she gripped the hand of one of her hooded Hamas captors and said, “Shalom”. 

That display of forgiveness towards another, someone the world defined as her enemy, was a display of all that is best in the human spirit. It took great courage, and it gave me hope, because it was an expression of a fundamental humanist belief – one which we share with Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and Christianity, with all faiths and beliefs – that we should offer unconditional compassion to everyone.  

I’d like to end by reading you a poem adapted from words from  ‘Carmina Gadelica’ by Alexander Carmichael. 

May Love enfold you:

Love to surround,

Love in your speaking,

Love in your thinking.

Love in your sleeping,

Love in your waking,

Love in your watching,

Love in your hoping.

Love in your life,

Love on your lips,

Love in your soul,

Love in your heart.

Love in your working,

Love in your rest.

Mir, Muir, Salaam, Shalom. Peace be upon you. Om Shanti.