|The French, German and Belgium flags in Melle Deux Sevres|
This year marks the 100th anniversary of many of the bloodiest battles of the First World War including the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of Verdun in France. It is also a year that has seen many political changes being made across the globe. Britain has voted to sever it’s ties with the European Union, believing it will be a better place standing alone and sadly newspaper headlines that have celebrated policies to reform immigration rules and give British jobs to British workers have led to anything and anyone foreign being deemed to be suspicious and not to be trusted. As an EU immigrant from the UK living in France and the granddaughter of Irish immigrants who moved to England in the 1930’s this makes me uncomfortable and worried for our future. I’m not an American so don’t really feel I have much to say much about US politics, but again when I read newspaper headlines that talk of building a wall on the Mexican boarder, refusing entry to all Muslims and inciting hatred of minorities, I feel sad and disappointed in the way the world is heading.
|The students from Melle, Melle and Melle in our local paper|
Thankfully, I have also seem a glimmer of hope this week for a future where ‘unite not fight’ could be a real possibility. Despite the atrocities and loss of lives of 100 years ago, our local market town of Melle, where Ed goes to lycee, is twinned with Melle in Belgium and Melle in Germany and it was heartening to see the Belgium and German flags flying alongside the French tricolore outside the town hall. This year marks the third year where students from all three towns have got together, united in remembrance of those who died in the First World War. In 2014 they attended a ceremony in Belgium and last year they were in Germany. This year our European neighbours are here in France and participated together in a ceremony this morning.
|Poppy wreath and French floral tribute|
Sadly we couldn’t attend as our village held it’s own ceremony, where two French-born British children laid a Royal British Legion poppy wreath alongside the commune’s floral tribute entwined with the ribbon of the French flag. I see this as another sign of unity between European neighbours and the positive integration of migrants into the community. It was also lovely to see so many villagers of all ages attending the ceremony today, although I’m sure the sunshine provided a bit of extra encouragement.
Ed visited Melle in Germany, on a language exchange programme last month. In fact it was there that he spent his 16th birthday, with a family he had only met five days before, but who made a real effort to make his day special. I am looking forward to welcoming their son Maik into our home next year and although I will probably never meet his parents, I am very thankful to them for making Ed feel welcome in their home.
|Laying the Poppy wreath in France|
I feel we need to do all we can to encourage the younger generation to reach out to each other and build positive bridges with other nationalities and cultures. We are living in a world that needs to remember the conflicts of the past and learn to #UniteNotFight for the future.
This post has been linked to #AllAboutFrance.