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International Conscientious Objectors' Day - May 15th

Remembering all those who have refused to bear arms and participate in war, throughout history and today.

This page is supported by the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, ConscienceFellowship of Reconciliation, Humanists UKMovement for the Abolition of War, Network for Peace, Pax ChristiPeace & Justice (Scotland)Peace News, Peace Pledge Union, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, The Right to Refuse to Kill Group and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

On this page

  1. Events on May 15th

  2. Map - Conscientious objectors round the world

  3. Campaigns

  4. Education

  5. More Resources

Events on May 15th

Every year on May 15th we remember those who have established and are maintaining the right to refuse to kill, both in the past and today. Hundreds of people across the world are imprisoned or forced to flee their home countries for refusing to join the armed forces. On May 15th we stand in solidarity with them, as well as celebrating the memory of all those throughout history who have resisted conscription.

The National Online Ceremony 2021 included contributions from around the world and numerous groups across the UK, with speeches by Israeli conscientious objector Atalya Ben-Abba, Natalia García Cortés from War Resisters' International in Colombia and actor Michael Mears live from the Conscientious Objectors' Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square, London. You can watch the National Ceremony 2021 here and the National Ceremony 2020 here.

Please keep an eye on this page or on social media for events on 15th May 2022.

If you have any stories or experiences of conscientious objection, or are planning anything for International Conscientious Objectors' Day, please get in touch at mail@ppu.org.uk.

Map

This map shows examples of conscientious objectors from around the world and across history, highlighting the global scope of their struggle and the treatment they have faced.

 

Campaigns

war resisters' international

WRI is a global network of grassroots antimilitarist and pacifist groups. They maintain a global database on current conscientious objection, as well as supporting conscientious objectors facing persecution around the world.


Opposing War Memorial

Opposing war memorial thumbnailLearn about plans for the Opposing War Memorial in Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh, which will commemorate Conscientious Objectors and all who oppose war. You can donate to help establish the memorial here.


The History of International Conscientious Objectors' Day

Since 1982 people around the world have remembered and marked their support for conscientious objectors on the 15th May, through vigils, demonstrations and ceremonies.


 

Education

The men who said no

Read the story of the resistance to the 1914-1919 war. The Men Who Said No explores the experiences and historical context of the men and women who put their lives on hold, first to stop war from happening and then refusing to participate in it. You can also use this worksheet to guide research on local COs for Local & Community History month. 


Teach Peace Pack - The Importance of Disobedience

This educational resource created by the Peace Education Network helps children explore what they believe to be right through stories and activities. It is designed for a school assembly, but can be adapted for home use.


Peace Education from Quakers in Britain

Explore the wealth of resources relevant to conscientious objection on the Tes page for Quakers in Britain, including the World War I critical thinking projects 'Conscience' and 'Conviction', and 'Nonviolent change in Palestine & Israel'.


Opposition to Conscription

This resource by the Peace Pledge Union, aimed at secondary aged students, tells the story of conscientious objectors and the No Conscription Fellowship in WW1. Students are encouraged to explore the concept of 'heroism' through case studies (can be completed individually or as a group).


watford's quiet heroes

A thirty minute documentary made by Watford Quakers telling the dramatic and largely forgotten stories of some of the men who refused to fight in WW1.


Legacies of Resistance to the First World War in Scotland

Over 130 Scots became COs during the First World War. Most were imprisoned. Read about their lives and convictions in this thoroughly researched publication by the Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre and the Workers’ Educational Association Scotland.


 

More Resources on Conscientious Objection

This Evil Thing

This powerful one-man play written and performed by Michael Mears, delves into the lives of British conscientious objectors from the First World War. Following acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2016 and tours in the UK and USA, a special performance of the play, filmed at home during the Coronavirus outbreak, is now available online in six chapters.


Voices of Conscientious Objection

This series of online webinars by Conscience delves into the lives and experiences of conscientious objectors, and explores the lessons we can draw from them today. You can find further details and recordings of the whole series here. For news of upcoming webinars visit Conscience's website.


Conscientious Objectors' Commemorative Stone, Tavistock Square, London

Unveiled in 1994, this monument pays tribute to conscientious objectors around the world, past and present. A ceremony is held at the stone every year on 15th May to commemorate their lives and resistance.


A Humanist’s Approach to National Service

This account by Richard Hale explains why he became a conscientious objector, in line with his humanist beliefs, when called up for National Service in the aftermath of the Second World War.


Peace songs by Sue Gilmurray

Listen to and learn peace songs by singer-songwriter Sue Gilmurray. The Ones Who Said No is often sung on International Conscientious Objectors' Day.


"I shall die, but that is all I shall do for Death"

This short film inspired by the poem by Edna St Vincent Millay, provides a thought-provoking starting point for wider discussion and reflection. With original music by Thomas Gray and Soprano Rowan Fenner. Directed by Colin Stevens (aka Steven Carne).