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Online ceremonies to mark International Conscientious Objectors' Day

Conscientious Objectors memorial stone inscription in Tavistock Square

Online ceremonies to mark International Conscientious Objectors' Day

On Friday 15th May people around the world will pause to remember all those who have refused to bear arms and participate in war.

Hundreds of conscientious objectors today are imprisoned or forced to flee their home countries for refusing to join the armed forces. On International Conscientious Objectors' Day members of the Peace Pledge Union and many others stand in solidarity with them, as well as celebrating the memory of all those throughout history who have resisted conscription, including during the First and Second World Wars.

Usually ceremonies to mark the day are held around the UK, including in Tavistock Square in London. This year, due to the Coronavirus outbreak, ceremonies will happen online, organised by groups in several cities including Leicester and Edinburgh.

At the National Ceremony at 12 midday on 15th may, organised by a coalition of organisations including the PPU, online participants will observe a minute's silence. Niat Chefena Hailemariam from Network of Eritrean Women will speak about military service in Eritrea, which is compulsory for both men and women.

Speakers also include actor Michael Mears, who will present a performance piece based on testimonies of Second World War conscientious objectors. He has also filmed, during lockdown at home, a version of his play This Evil Thing, which portrays the compelling story of Britain's conscientious objectors in the First World War, and which will be released online from May 15th.

In the run up to International Conscientious Objectors' Day, the PPU are publicising several ways people can show their support for conscientious objectors from home, including with video messages, window posters and donating to help establish a new memorial to conscientious objectors in Princes St Gardens in Edinburgh.

The PPU is the British section of War Resisters' International (WRI), which maintains a global database on current conscientious objection. This year WRI are focussing on Conscientious Objection and Asylum. Many refugees are forced to flee and seek asylum due to military recruitment in countries that don't recognise the right to conscientious objection. To highlight this issue, WRI will be streaming video contributions on Youtube from across the world by current conscientious objectors and supporters.

Many in-depth resources on conscientious objection are available through the PPU website, including educational materials aimed at various age groups, which can be adapted for use during the Coronavirus lockdown.

The PPU maintains an extensive database of the names and life stories of conscientious objectors. The Men Who Said No is a PPU-run website that tells the stories conscientious objectors from the First World War and explores their continuing relevance today.