Commemoration of the Centenary of the Armistice of the First World War Closing Ceremony at the Residence / Speech of the Consul General of France Jeddah on November 11, 2018
HE Ambassador Jamal Balkhyour, Director General of the MAE, Makkah Branch,
Ladies and Gentlemen the Consuls Generals, Honorary Consuls, Deputy Consuls,
Ladies and gentlemen, consular counselors,
The Attaché of France Defense in Riyadh,
Ladies and Gentlemen presidents of French associations, heads of international schools of Jeddah,
Ladies and gentlemen,
The events that is bringing us together today November 11, 2018 took place 100 years ago. This means that on the scale of human life, there is no longer a direct witness of what happened between 1914 and 1918. So we are the last generation to have heard directly the story of this war by those who made it.
We are here to commemorate the end of the First World War.
To commemorate is not to forget and remember:
• Remember that the First World War was the story of one of the greatest human sufferings of modern times. The war killed 18.6 million, with 9.7 million deaths for the military and 8.9 million for civilians.
• Remember that for the only day of August 22, 1914, and in the space of a few hours, 40,000 soldiers died, 27,000 French and 13,000 Germans.
• Remember that the soldiers were between 18 and 25 years old, that the War also made more than 20 million wounded and mutilated, that it destroyed towns and villages, factories, fields, roads and bridges.
• Remember to bow to the memory of our soldiers who sacrificed themselves so we can be free today.
• During these 100 years since the end of the war, we have gone through different stages, from homage to armies, to veterans and, today, to celebrate peace, Europe and the future.
France and Germany fought in the most important wars of the nineteenth and twentieth century, in 1870, in 14-18 and in 39-45. Today, France and Germany, the French people and the German people, beyond the reconciliation, have established solidarities in all sectors, defend common values within Europe that they are called "Franco-German couple". Time has helped to heal the wounds, but above all, our leaders have made strong symbolic gestures in the sense of "shared grief". I think recollection of heads of French and German state (President Francois Mitterrand and Chancellor Helmut Kohl) in Verdun in 1984 where we see those holding hands in a solemn tribute to the dead of the Great War.
A century after the end of the Great War, let us remember that peace is the most precious good, but that this peace is fragile and precarious.
To show that our commitment to peace is constant, France brings together from November 11, 2018 until November 13, the Forum for Peace. We expect 10,000 participants to recall that Europe has lived for 70 years in stability and peace, to defend global stability, to warn about the risks of conflict exacerbated by the rise of nationalisms and populisms, to act for the climate and, finally, to recall that multilateralism is more than ever necessary.
In Jeddah, we wanted this commemoration of the Centenary to respect these two aspects of recollection of our dead, on one hand, and celebration of peace, on the other.
• This morning at the non-Muslim cemetery in Jeddah, we were many gathered at the graves of the French soldier, Captain Jean-Baptiste Lapadu-Hargues and the British military John Arthur Hogan. Students from French, English and German schools read moving texts from soldiers of the Great War. I thank my colleagues, the Consuls Generals of Germany, Italy and United States for participating in this ceremony.
• To tell the younger generations to remember those who fell on the field of honor more than 100 years ago, the French School celebrated this afternoon, together with the British, German, Italian, Senegalese and Guinean school. I want to thank the heads of these institutions who responded to our call and mobilized their students despite a very tight schedule.
• Finally, tonight we summarize this commemoration with an exhibition of French and American photos on the Great War. I would like to thank the Consulate General of the United States for contributing to this exhibition by enriching it.
To celebrate peace, what better than to give voice to our youth to sing the Ode to Joy (finale of the 9th symphony of Beethoven) which is the official anthem of the European Union, but especially the symbol of the desire of more than 500 million Europeans to live together, safely and peacefully.
• One cannot speak of peace without thinking of the various conflicts that ignite this region and call for political solutions. I am thinking of Syria, Yemen, Libya, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peace also requires the preparation of a favorable environment, which requires more security, and therefore the fight against terrorism wherever it is.
Let us remember then the sacrifice of our grandfathers and our great grandfathers. Let us remember that our 100-year-old soldiers left us the responsibility to contribute, in their memory, to building a better world.