London: Conscientious Objectors' Day 2019

  • Jo Siedlecka

Conscientious Objectors' Day on 15 May, was marked around the world with prayers, vigils and ceremonies. In London, about 200 people, including some descendants of First World War COs, gathered at the Conscientious Objectors' stone in Tavistock Square for the annual commemoration ceremony.

Among those attending were Theresa Alessandro, new director of Pax Christi UK, Pat Gaffney, Bruce Kent from CND and Ellen Teague from the Columbans.

Co-hosted by the First World War Peace Forum and Movement for the Abolition of War, after a welcome by Suhdya Darr from Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Professor Lois Bibbings from the University of Bristol gave a short address in which she outlined the different ways COs expressed their resistance to military service - from simply refusing to serve in the army - but accepting work as medical orderly orderlies or farm labourers - to those who went to prison and even went on hunger strikes or were executed.

A choir sang anthems by Sue Gilmurray. Jay Sutherland, founding member of Scotland Against Militarism, gave a heartfelt address in which he said militarism was, and always has been, an issue of special concern to young people. He described how BAE - the world's largest arms company, made special effort to recruit students at the Glasgow Arms Fair recently. "Our best and brightest minds that could help with some many of society's problems are employed by the people destroying the world and killing many" he said.

(Read his whole speech here: Jay Sutherland: 'militarism is a youth issue' -

Single flowers were laid on the stone as the names of Conscientious Objectors from 85 different different countries were read out. The earliest one mentioned was St Maximilian of Tebesa - beheaded in the year 295 for refusing to serve in the military because of his Christian faith. He is a patron saint of Conscientious Objectors. Many of those names were executed, others served prison terms - and many are prison today.

Elsewhere, ceremonies were held in Edinburgh, Leicester, Manchester, Bradford and cities around the world.

Tags: International Conscientious Objectors' Day, Jay Sutherland, Militarism, Peace, Bruce Kent, Theresa Alessandro, Pat Gaffney, Bruce Kent, Ellen Teague

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