Conscientious Objectors here and abroad.
This winter has seen me working almost daily at my new book, free from the distractions of hot days and a surf beach that is tantalizingly close. However I missed several early storms by being in the UK, joining others in an annual outdoor celebration of Conscientious Objectors, held in Tavistock Square, London on 15 May, courtesy of An Unexpected Hero and my research on Archie Baxter.
Ten peace groups share the management of the event, which included speakers, choirs, and the ceremony of placing a long-stemmed white carnation for a pacifist from each of seventy nations on the large memorial stone. Archibald Baxter had already been selected for New Zealand and I met people there who knew far more about him than do many in this country. I received a generous welcome and heard many moving speakers, including a young woman from Israel imprisoned for refusing compulsory military service. There are many of these CO’s, a fact little-known outside that country and the women receive particularly abusive treatment.
An Unexpected Hero was well received by one of the main organising groups, the UK Quaker Education team, who responded with gifts of their own publications, and there was much enthusiastic sharing of resources. I learned about their ways of promoting peaceful methods of dealing with conflict in schools.
The University for Peace in Costa Rica, a country mentioned at the end of An Unexpected Hero also has a copy of the book in their library, so students can access more about this country’s pacifist history.
In mid-April, I was invited to give a seminar on ‘What Constitutes a Hero’ at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University in Dunedin. Professor Kevin Clements of the Centre has proved very supportive.
In Dunedin I also met the hard-working members of the Archibald Baxter Trust who bought a number of books for competition prizes. They also hold annual commemorative events and are establishing a memorial seat and plaque for him and other CO’s from Aotearoa. An Unexpected Hero has given a glimpse of how many people actively support non-violent ways of managing conflict.