UK
10/11/2013 06:54 GMT

Remembrance Sunday: Quakers Say Conscientious Objectors Should Be Honoured Too

On Remembrance Sunday, Britain falls silent to honour the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.

But should those who refused to take part in the First World War also be celebrated?

That is the view of the Quakers, who are launching a new campaign to highlight the suffering of conscientious objectors, who did not bow to the "jingoism" of the day and were hauled before tribunals and often thrown into prison as a result of their decisions.

And the Quakers believe the dilemma is still relevant today, with some countries still operating similar policies.

After conscription was introduced in 1916, those who did not want to take part had to prove they were motivated by conscience, not cowardice, and many faced fury from members of the public during the War.

conscientious objectors

Conscientious objectors on Dartmoor during the First World War

Jane Dawson, who is public relations lead for the Quakers in Britain, told HuffPost UK: "People were given white feathers as a sign of cowardice, they were knocked down in the street, their hats were knocked off and people's shops were smashed up."

She added: "They believed that every human life was valuable, and there was no way they could take another human life because the government told them to do so.

"It was really hard for them to take that decision. Imagine putting your family in danger because your faith led you not to take up arms."

lord kitchener

A mass recruitment drive was followed by compulsory conscription to replace soldiers who had died

While today is about remembering those who fought and lost their lives in the Great War, Dawson said the White Feather Diaries initiative had also been welcomed.

The campaign will tell the story of five Quakers as the war unfolded, and will use Twitter and a daily blog to update their accounts.

According to the Quakers: "The stories will chart the individuals’ journey of discovery as they find out that opposing war is never easy and being a pacifist is always a brave decision."

Dawson said the dilemmas that faced the so-called 'conchies' was relevant today, as countries including Austria, Israel and Turkey still have conscription laws.

"It's not that they were being cowards, simply that they were not being caught up in the jingoism and following the government at the time," she added.