We return to another term of teaching and learning in the aftermath of events that have shocked the world and left an enduring impact on human history. As the boys were heading off for their break, news of the fire that has claimed major portions of Notre Dame – one of the great cathedrals of the world – became known. One hundred years in the building and completed in the earliest stages of the Renaissance (1260), this building has seen so much of the European story and that of France pass before it. As a stoic symbol of resilience, it has survived plagues, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic and two World Wars – the latter of which were fought on French soil and accounted for so much destruction across Paris and the surrounding regions. For those who have had the fortune to see the magnificence of this structure first hand, it represents a loss of incalculable proportions to the repository of world heritage. The response from the international community to the loss has been nothing short of inspiring, with close to $1 billion being pledged to support the rebuilding program within days of the fire being controlled. Like the phoenix from the ashes – literally, it will rise again and, just perhaps, form another rich and compelling chapter in the unfolding history of one of Christendom’s mightiest structures.
Of much greater impact was the heinous and indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, which saw some 250 lives lost and over 500 injured. This has registered as the most significant orchestrated terrorist attack since 9/11 in New York. While the western world anticipated waking up to the story of the resurrection and new life on Easter Sunday, it was shattered by the news that churches and restaurants were the scene of such horror and destruction, taking a massive toll of human life in a country that was in the rebuilding stages after many years of civil strife and political disorder. Aftershocks of this barbarism continue with further cells of terrorism being uncovered in the small island state that has become so dependent upon tourism and political stability over recent times. As we return to the relative safety of the gracious surrounds of Riverview, let us pray for those who have suffered such deep personal losses, and for those who have been so traumatised by the events of terrorism, both in Sri Lanka and its sporadic but, no less confronting, expressions throughout the world.
It is not without its own significance that the Islamic extremism in Sri Lanka comes in the aftermath of (or some even suggest in response to) the white supremacy attack in New Zealand in mid-March. Such events question our faith in human nature and ask confronting questions about the prevalence of good and evil in our world. What it requires from each and every person who believes in the rule of law, democratic freedom and human rights, is the commitment to and advocacy for the principles of human dignity and justice. Lone voices find it difficult to be of influence, but the large critical mass who have a deep sense of righteousness and moral integrity will prevail. May we take that sentiment forward, resolutely, despite the events that challenge the fragile fabric of the contemporary world.
As one would expect, the term begins with a great deal on the agenda and it will unfold rapidly over the coming nine weeks. As ANZAC Day was held over the break, it was important to commemorate the St Ignatius story with an ANZAC Assembly to begin the term. 69 young men from this school lost their lives in the First World War, a number of them consumed by the military inferno on the Gallipoli peninsular in Turkey in 1915. Another 51 men who have given service to their country in the armed forces, have also been killed in wars since. This formed the basis of a very solemn and respectful observance ceremony in the Ramsay Hall on Tuesday – a salient and sobering reminder of the past for the way that it informs the present and the future. It is hoped that our boys will not have to see the horrors of battle or conflict as we move further into the new century and the new millennium.
House Masses, Immersion Reflection Evenings, Country Boarding Expos, a massive winter co-curricular program and very much more, line the calendar over the coming weeks. Term 2 is distinctive as it is the shortest term of the year and it brings with it much intensity by way of the assessment regime and the summative report process associated with the end of semester. For the boys in Year 10, the term will conclude with their Service Week, as they take on more senior responsibilities by responding to the needs around them, be they in Sydney or in different states of Australia. The boys in Year 11 who are considering leadership in their graduation year will register for the Arrupe Academy, which focusses on the qualities and ethics of leaders as these young men prepare to take over their school during the coming months. And for the graduates, it is their final term of coursework and preparation for the Trial HSC Examinations in Term 3. By any standards, it is a busy time ahead so I exhort all to dive deep over the coming weeks to extract maximum outcomes from the opportunities that are available, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Very best wishes for the term ahead.