International Conscientious Objectors Day
International Conscientious Objectors Day is observed next on Monday, May 15th, 2023 (221 days from today).
International Conscientious Objectors Day provides an opportunity to not only honor those who opposed and refused to fight in wars but to reflect on the legacy of conscientious objection and unite with conscientious objectors in the world.
What is Conscientious Objector?
The Military Service Act of 1916 introduced military service in England. It is compulsory to require unmarried men of working age to take part in the armed forces. The act includes a 'conscience clause', which provides an exemption to those who conscientiously object to combat service. Quakers believe that there is 'God's in all people' and therefore it is wrong to take a life. This led them to campaign against conscription. When it became clear that the mandatory order would apply, Quakers were among those who lobbied the government to introduce the 'conscience clause'. Arnold Rowntree, John E. Barlow and T. Edmund Harvey were the three Quaker MPs who participated in drafting the provision.
Conscientious opponents (COs) have various reasons for opposing military service. These include religious beliefs, political ideologies, and moral or humanistic principles. The local court has assessed the waiver claimants.
At trial, COs were questioned about the sincerity of their beliefs. Courts have the power to grant absolute or conditional immunity, but COs are frequently denied. COs denied an exemption are considered unpaid absences and are expected to report duty. Those who continued to refuse military orders were often sent to prison.
In 1918, the Representation of the People Act expanded suffrage to men over the age of 21 and introduced the vote to women for the first time, barring some opponents of fairness from voting or running for office for five years.
History of International Conscientious Objectors Day
Quakers have resisted mandatory military service since it was introduced into law in January 1916, and many have chosen to register as conscientious objectors. A small but significant number of young Quakers chose to join the armed forces, feeling this was the fastest way to end the war.
Quakers continue to challenge militarism in all its forms motivated by our faith, which calls us to work tirelessly for peace and live in the life and power that 'takes away' the chance of all war.
For centuries, Quakers have opposed war and armed service out of conscience, and fought for the right to conscientious objection in law in 1916. Fair protest in Britain today can be seen as is to uphold our right to refuse to pay someone else to kill us on our behalf.
How to celebrate International Conscientious Objectors Day
- Conscience Support: Conscience is a UK charity that campaigns to increase the rate of tax spent on peace building. They also campaign for the legal right to choose to use taxes to build peace instead of spending on war and preparing for war. Learn more on the Conscience website.
Sign up for action alerts: Be alerted to War Resisters International's conscientious objection or anti-militaristic actions. When you receive an alert, you can take action by filling out an email contact form so that you can quickly and easily contact the authorities to assist a dedicated protester. Sign up for notifications.
- Write a Letter to Prisoners for Peace: You can support conscientious objectors who have been jailed for refusing to join the military by writing to them.
On December 1st, conscientious objectors marked Prisoners for Peace Day. War Resisters' International publishes lists of prisoners who conscientiously oppose or have committed nonviolent actions to disrupt preparations for war. Learn more and get involved.
- Organize your own activism locally: You may want to organize your own event to remember past and present dedicated protestors at a public location. It is possible that you do so separately from other officially held commemorative events. The Peace and Disarmament Program Team is available to assist at any time possible. Please let us know if you are organizing your own celebration.
- Promote peace education resources in your local school: The QPSW Peace Education Program has created a range of resources to promote education rooted in peace and positive justice.
These include two sources titled 'Conscience' and 'Faith' that explore conscientious objection and encourage young people to think about the steps needed to be taken for a world without war.
ObservedInternational Conscientious Objectors Day has been observed annually on May 15th.
Saturday, May 15th, 2021
Sunday, May 15th, 2022
Monday, May 15th, 2023
Wednesday, May 15th, 2024
Thursday, May 15th, 2025