Conscientious objection

1 December 2019Feature

A view from New Profile, the movement for the demilitarisation of Israeli society

One of New Profile’s central projects is our Counselling Network – a network of volunteers accompanying young Israelis through the process of avoiding or discontinuing their compulsory military service.

One foundation that bills itself as politically radical has informed us that they’d fund other work we’re doing in education, but never the Counselling Network, because, you see, it is not radical enough.

As context, consider that, while we have always supported, and…

1 June 2019Comment

Direct action comes in different shapes and sizes

What a pleasure it was to read about what one bold cardinal has been up to in Rome.

Apparently, in May, the electricity was cut off for a building occupied by 450 squatters – about 100 of them children. Many were refugees.

Cardinal Krajewski (Polish – you guessed) decided on a bit of very direct action. He lifted a lid set in the ground, climbed down to remove a seal, and switched on the electricity.

Light and hot water restored. If there’s a fine, the…

1 June 2019News

Memorial to Haringey conscientious objectors unveiled



On 15 May, Haringey First World War Peace Forum unveiled a hand-carved plaque to remember the North London borough’s 350 First World War conscientious objectors. The plaque was installed where outdoor anti-war meetings were held during the war, outside the Salisbury pub (back then, the Salisbury hotel) on Green Lanes. Actor Jim Broadbent, historian Cyril Pearce and local councillors Mark Blake and Emine Ibrahim joined 150 people for the ceremony. The plaque was funded by a…

1 June 2019News

War refusers receive messages of support

Events were held in locations all around the world to mark International Conscientious Objectors’ Day on 15 May, including Edinburgh’s Princes Street, Leicester’s Peace Walk, Liverpool’s News from Nowhere bookshop, London’s Tavistock Square, Manchester’s Friends Meeting House, and Sheffield’s Peace Gardens.

In South Korea, hundreds of COs received messages of support, there was a cycle ride for peace in Seoul and, on Jeju Island, and Jeju Green Party and Jeju Queer Culture…

28 November 2018Blog entry

In some ways it is hard to believe it has now been over a century since the guns of the First World War fell silent. The 'war to end all wars' is so deeply engraved on our national consciousness that even now, when there is no living memory of the conflict, people gather to speak, remember and reflect on that awful, bloody war.

20 November 2018Blog entry

The case of Henry Rivett Albrow, a conscientious objector.

It is the case of Henry Rivett Albrow that forms much of the plot of Devils on Horseback. When he is called before the tribunal he is erudite and eloquent in his impassioned defence of his conscience, calling himself a ‘dissident Christian’ – mainly because he cannot reconcile ‘love thy neighbour’ and ‘thou shalt not kill’ with the church’s acceptance of warfare. He is berated mercilessly by the members of the tribunal, with the usual nonsensical questions that are asked of…

27 September 2017Letter

My name is Linsey Robb and I am a lecturer in Modern British History at Northumbria University, Newcastle. I am currently embarking on a project to interview men who were conscientious objectors in Britain during the Second World War. I feel that their experiences have not received the public nor scholarly attention they deserve. This is a situation I aim to remedy. I will interview them in a place convenient to them (usually in their own home) and interviews will normally last around one to…

28 June 2017Blog entry

Blending theatre, art and politics, the Peace History Conferences go from strength to strength

The Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW), organiser of the series of Peace History Conferences, has a strong and creative relationship with the Imperial War Museum (IWM) in London. This works because, on MAW’s side, there is an attitude not of dogmatic pacifism but of reasoned opposition to…

1 June 2017News

Mark Rylance joins CO commemoration

Mark Rylance (left) and Patrick

An impressive number of people braved a forecast downpour on 15 May to commemorate Conscientious Objectors (CO) Day in Tavistock Square in central London.
The rain downgraded to a steady drizzle but maybe the news that Mark Rylance (sir Mark? We don’t do titles do we?) was going to be one of the speakers motivated people.

Mark is best known for portraying Thomas Cromwell in the BBC TV series Wolf Hall; younger readers may know him as the BFG.…

27 May 2017Blog entry

On 17 May 2017, Peace News and Housmans Bookshop celebrated the release of Chelsea Manning, along with dozens of her supporters.

Chelsea Manning is a whistleblower who was working for the US military as a data analyst during the US-led coalition war in Afghanistan. She was sentences to serving 35 years in military prison for leaking classified US government documents to the Wikileaks website, and revealing to the public that the US army, the CIA and Iraqi and Afghan forces committed human rights violations. The crimes she…

1 October 2016Comment

Jeff Cloves reflects on Stroud's global peace party

A few weeks ago, I was surprised to see my local paper, the Stroud News and Journal, had run a decent feature headlined ‘Global peace party to be held in Stroud’s Bankside gardens.... to celebrate peace around the world and to collectively call for an end to war’. The party (held on Sunday 18 September) was followed by evening events and the paper gave a detailed listing.

World Peace Day followed on 21 September and I guess it was observed throughout the world during that…

1 June 2016News

WW1 COs remembered

Peace sign, Cornwall Rd, London N4 4PH. Photo: HFWWPF

In mid-May, peace activists put up signs in 100 streets across the London borough of Haringey in recognition of men who lived there 100 years ago who were conscientious objectors to the First World War.

This was an initiative of the Haringey First World War Peace Forum, local residents who have researched the stories of nearly 350 conscientious objectors in Haringey – which at that time was three boroughs of Hornsey, Wood…

31 March 2015Review

Lutterworth Press, 2014; 312pp; £20

An Anglican priest, former chair of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and chair of the Peace Museum in Bradford, Clive Barrett is ideally placed to document Anglican resistance to the First World War.

I was hooked from the opening chapter which shows how militarism was embedded in the 39 ‘articles of religion’ to which all Anglican clergy must assent. Article 37 – ‘It is lawful for Christian Men, at the command of the magistrate, to wear weapons, and serve in wars’ – clarified…

9 June 2014Review

Palgrave Macmillan, 2014; 276pp; £62.50

Every one of us, proclaims Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 'has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion'. 

However, there are many ifs-and-buts standing between the rights codified in the world's several international instruments and the respectful treatment of actual conscientious objectors (COs) to military service in any given country today. Őzgűr Heval Çinar, lawyer and activist in support of CO rights, has produced a valuable analysis of…

9 June 2014News

On International Conscientious Objectors Day

PHOTO: ALEX GERRARD/PAX CHRISTI

Watched by Valerie Flessati (left) of the First World War Peace Forum, at the 15 May Conscientious Objectors (CO) Day ceremony in Tavistock Square in central London, Cindy Sharkey (right) remembers her CO grandfather who refused to fight in the First World War.

A socialist member of the Independent Labour Party, Eleazor ‘Dil’ Thomas refused to participate in what he saw as a capitalist war, waged to preserve the empire. As well as remembering women war…