international conscientious objectors’ day

by Campaign ~ May 15th, 2013. Filed under: News.

International Conscientious Objectors’ Day has been recognised for over two decades and has become an established day of joint action for groups related to the CO movement.
Here in the UK we are fortunate to no longer face military conscription, but many COs still continue to campaign for an update in UK law to give them their right of freedom of conscience not to pay for war or the preparations for war through their taxes. We should also always remember that not everyone is where we are and campaigning for the right to conscientiously object to military conscription is a very live issue for many people across the world.

This February a representative from conscience was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 14th International Conference of War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns, was held in Bogota, Colombia. This conference was organised by Acción colectiva de objetores y objetoras de conciencia (ACOOC) a Colombian organisation that campaigns for the rights of conscientious objectors and promotes non-violence in Colombia.

During the conference we learnt much about the problems of conscientious objection in Colombia and its lack of recognition there. Despite the right to conscientiously object to military service being recognised by the constitutional court in 2009 only one person since then has actually been recognised as a CO – despite numerous COs trying to claim the right.

During the conference one of the speakers asked conference participants ‘what most helps you take action on what your conscience is telling you?’ a recurring theme in answers to this question was community, friends and family. This was summed up beautifully by one participant as: ‘support from others helps to overcome the fear of the consequences of taking action.’ The need to share ideas and support other COs around the world is extremely important.

The struggle for the right of COs not to carry out military service may seem a world away from the campaigning conscience does for the right of COs not to pay for war, but it isn’t. We are all on different places along the road to being able not to kill, at different places in the struggle, but ultimately we are all campaigning towards the same end. The only difference is, here in the UK we do not see first-hand the violence and other crimes we commit through our taxes. We don’t meet the families our money divides and devastates or the people we wound or the people we kill.

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