Press Notice: Cranks or heroes? Uncovering the cost of conscience

Here is a Press Release from the Society of Friends:

On International Conscientious Objectors’ Day, 15 May, the courageous men who refused to fight in World War I because they refused to kill, will be remembered by Quakers in Britain and peace groups.  Quakers will launch their four-year project to tell the untold stories of WWI and to draw parallels with our response to conflict today. Relatives will honour the conscientious objectors (COs) in a simple ceremony.
Events in central London will centre on the CO memorial stone in Tavistock Square and nearby Friends House, where the Library houses artefacts of 350 years of the Quaker peace testimony.
Paul Parker, Recording Clerk for Quakers in Britain will say: “ Our unique library houses artefacts that bring alive the extraordinary, hidden stories of Quakers, that show that pacifism was then, and still  is, a brave and difficult decision, and is by no means passive.”
10.00am to 10.30am for media preview and from 11.30 to 3.00pm: an exhibition in Friends House Library of rare historic artefacts including fragile diaries written on toilet paper and circulated clandestinely by imprisoned COs, as well as bullets transformed into cutlery. Exhibits document Quakers’ opposition to war and role in the creation of legislation to allow conscientious objection.
At 10.30am in Friends House, (opposite Euston Station) Quakers in Britain launch their project, witnessing for peace, facing conflict and working to promote non-violence today. Writer and broadcaster, Geoffrey Durham speaks on how Quakers put faith into action, many resisting killing because all life is sacred.  Ruth Cadbury, parliamentary candidate, will tell the story of a family divided, as they struggled to find the best way to reconcile their religion and their duties as citizens - Bertie and Laurence Cadbury eventually chose two different paths, to fight and not to fight. Quakers will announce the names of five COs to appear in an online storytelling project, The white feather diaries, which through original letters and diaries take us on a journey into their daily lives and dilemmas from the outbreak of the war in 1914 to the introduction of conscription in 1916.  The white feather diaries will go live on 4 August 2014.
At noon, in Tavistock Square WC1, the First World War Peace Forum invites all to the International Conscientious Objectors’ Day ceremony. Descendants of more than fifty COs will honour their relatives, some of whom opposed the war for political reasons. Local schoolchildren will sing peace songs. Speakers include Mary Dobbing who took part in the women’s peace delegation which visited Afghan Peace volunteers in Kabul. Other speeches will remember COs, the anti-war movement in Germany and women war resisters.
From 2.00pm to 4.00pm descendants of COs will be available for interview in Friends House.
At 4.30pm two books charting the history of conscientious objection will be launched in Friends House Library: Objection Overruled by David Boulton and Comrades in Conscience by Cyril Pearce.
At 7.30pm No Glory will hold an evening of music and poetry at St Giles-in-the-Fields Church, WC2H 8LG. Readings from A L Kennedy, Blake Morrison, Michael Rosen, George Szirtes and Samuel West. Tickets from

There are many events around the country, including:

Thursday, 15 May, 7.30pm Peace Lecture, ‘1945-2045: A Century on the Edge’, lecture by Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford. Chaired by Malcolm Evans (Faculty of Social Sciences and Law, Bristol University) at Reception Room, Wills Memorial Building, Queen’s Road, Bristol BS8 1RJ
Thursday 7.30pm 15 May, Public meeting: author and expert in conflict transformation,  Diana Francis will speak on ‘Peace now: time for action’ at Chapter House, Gloucester Cathedral.

Saturday 17 May, Hexham Quakers have a talk by Bruce Kent and Valerie Flessati 'Courage and Conscience in Response to an Avoidable War', the fifth talk in Series 7 of The Hexham Debates.
Sunday 18 May, Evesham Quakers plan a commemoration of the stand taken by conscientious objectors in WWI. At 3.00pm in the Quaker Peace Garden. 
Notes to editors
·         Media are invited to attend any part of these events
·         Archived photographs of COs are available from and
·         For Quaker related queries, interviews about Friends House Library archives, or on the White Feather Diaries, or with families of Quaker COs contact Anne van Staveren on 020 7663 1048 or
·         For details of the event in Tavistock Square and interviews with families of COs and contact in Tavistock Square please call Pat Gaffney on 020 8203 4884 or 07443 952438 
·         Organisations in the First World War Peace Forum are: Conscience, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Network for Peace, Pax Christi, Peace News, Peace Pledge Union, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, the Right to Refuse to Kill Group, women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Contact
·         Read more on No Glory poetry evening
·         Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends.
·         Around 23,000 people attend nearly 475 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.



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