Oppose War and Work for Peace

 

White poppies for peace header with words

Saturday  Sunday 1133  11th November 2018

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This Saturday was actually a Sunday but I’m sure you won’t mind.

Whilst all around us there has been a sea of red poppies I wanted to present a different side of the Centenary of the Armistice and talk about the White Poppy and Peace. To that end I attended a Remembrance Sunday Ceremony in Tavistock Square, London organised by the First World War Peace Forum. I will list the organisations who took part along with links to their website at the bottom of this piece, so that you might read more about each of them, or maybe just pick one?

Before you read on, may I ask that you go over to my other blog Helen’s Photomania to read a deeply moving and highly relevant poem called “Lest We Forget” written by Sue Gilmurray, a poet and songwriter from the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, which was read by her at the ceremony.

If you click HERE it will open a new tab.  I commend it to you as a piece of essential reading.

Now I hope you have come back.

Tavistock square is thought of as an unofficial peace park. Not least because it contains, amongst other memorial trees and statues, a statue of Ghandi , a flowering cherry planted in memory of the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Conscientious Objectors Commemorative Stone commemorating “men and women conscientious objectors all over the world and in every age” beside which the ceremony was held ( photos of this later) Sadly it was also the scene of one of the four suicide bombings in London on 7 July 2005 when a double-decker bus was blown up in the street beside the square.

Click on any photo to enlarge it. 

You can read more about the history of Tavistock Square by clicking HERE

So what does the White Poppy represent – “White poppies recall all victims of all wars, including victims of wars that are still being fought. This includes people of all nationalities. It includes both civilians and members of armed forces. Today, over 90% of people killed in warfare are civilians. “ ( Peace Pledge Union website)

This differs from the Royal British Legion and the Red Poppy – “The Legion advocates a specific type of Remembrance connected to the British Armed Forces, those who were killed, those who fought with them and alongside them. “ ( British Legion website )

I wear both a white, my own has the CND symbol too, and a red poppy. Like so many families, members of my own family served during WW1 and like so many others some of them died. They were my great uncles on my father’s side, all from the same family.

From left to right – William John Merchant – survived, Frederick James Merchant died in Flanders  24th March 1918 aged 26 and finally Henry John Merchant who also died in Flanders on the 8th August 1918 when he was barely 20. What a terrible waste.  Addendum – whilst the people, dates and 1st photo are correct, I cannot be sure the 2nd and 3rd photos are.

Apart from the aforementioned Sue Gilmurray there were some other very moving speakers including Marigold Bentley of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, who has worked on peace building  in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and elsewhere. She once said ” “if war is the answer, we’re clearly asking the wrong questions”.  I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.

Marigold spoke about war being failure – the failure of politicians, governments and of diplomacy. She went on to say “Humanity may be capable of terrible things but there are always people protesting, challenging, making policy to make the world a better place” and “The possibility of peace is constantly with us. The activities of peace demonstrated here today by many participants and organisations, who have been part of the World War One Peace forum, are a living testimony to the alternative stories.”

The actor Michael Mears read emotional words from the peace campaigner Clifford Allen which were spoken at the end of the First World War. Clifford Allen was chairman of the No-Conscription Fellowship – before his imprisonment for refusing military service. He served three prison sentences including many weeks of solitary confinement on bread and water diets, at the end of which he was a frail and emaciated thirty year old, who looked twice his age, weighed less than eight stone and was suffering from the onset of tuberculosis.

Michael also read the following Haiku written by the poet Adrian Mitchell

Peacetime Haiku

Try one hundred years

Without any wars at all –

Let’s see if it works!

2 minutes silence was held followed by the laying of white poppy wreaths ,and other flowers, at the Conscientious Objectors Commemorative Stone.

 

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The Ceremony ended when we were invited to share words of commitment, “We commit ourselves to peace and justice…to use our power to work for a different kind of world starting with ourselves…our families, our neighbourhoods, communities, country. We invite everyone to join us in this urgent task.

For humanity’s sake our message is: –  “No More War, Let’s make Peace Happen”each of us being asked to make an individual commitment to peace in repeating those words

The ceremony was followed by a a peace festival held nearby in the Quakers Friends House; bringing together 23 peace organisations, some of which are listed at the bottom of the page.

Similar ceremonies took place in many other towns across the country including Leeds, Bradford, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, Pembroke, Exeter, Bath, Stowmarket, Saddleworth, Leamington Spa, Peterborough, Bridgwater and Bury St Edmunds.

I was moved to tears on several occasions during the ceremony but I left feeling thankful and hopeful that there are so many groups and individuals who are so committed to working for peace for all of us.

I’d like to end by saying if anyone is offended by the white poppy, and I know that some people are,  please ask yourself these 2 questions.

1 – Are you more offended by the white poppy than the killing, maiming, widows and orphans that result from war?

2- What are you personally doing to prevent more war and promote peace?

Thank you for reading this far.

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An alphabetical list of the organisations who took part in the alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony is below, followed by a list of the organisations who took part in a drop-in event, Peaceful Futures, afterwards.  Click on the name and it will bring you through to the website:-

Anglican Pacifist Fellowship

  Conscience – Taxes for Peace not War

Fellowship of Reconciliation

The Movement for the Abolition of War

Network for Peace

Pax Christi

The Peace Pledge Union

Peace News 

Quaker Peace and Social Witness 

The Right to Refuse to Kill ( War Resisters International)

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Also :- CND , Campaign Against Arms Trade ,   Servas  , Scientists for Global Responsibility  , ForcesWatch , Housmans , Drone Wars UK , Woodcraft Folk , 80,000 Voices.

Apologies to the organisers if I have missed any.

Your comments are welcome as ever.

Saturday Girl signing off.

You can find my photography blog Photomania here 

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“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu

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Saturday 1358  –  26.07.14

If you are new to my blog take a look at my About page here

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Please don’t just flick past and think this is just another post about Palestine.. It is but it is so very important to read about what is happening, as the worlds governments seem to be standing by apparently disinterested. Please read right to the end. Thank you.

I’d like you to think about something for me, especially if you have children, elderly parents, someone disabled in your family, a husband, wife or other loved one. Yes in other words all of you.

I want you to imagine that you’ve had leaflets dropped in the area where you live telling you that you need to get out of your house because the area in which you live is going to be bombed.

Now your phone is ringing and you’re being told you have 15 mins to get out of the house. What do you think ? This is my house, all my things, my life savings have gone into this house.

Then I want you to imagine that there is an explosion on your roof, enough to shake the house violently and do some damage or maybe even kill anyone at the top of the house. ( the Israelis call it a “tap on the roof”)

Next feel the fear of knowing that explosion on your roof is a warning that your house is going to be bombed and you need to get out fast. What would you bring with you? Food, clothes, medicine, money, the dog?  Would you have time? Would you run?  How can you when you have an elderly grandmother with you ? Where would you go when you don’t know which other houses are going to be bombed? 

Would you go to the beach? Would you be safe there?

Would you go to a UN run school? Would you be safe there?

Please don’t stop reading now but instead watch this video here. 

Imagine this was your house…..

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All gone…

Forever.  

Along with any dreams and hopes you might have had for the future.

I hope you managed to get your family out in time.

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These are some of the names and ages of the children killed in the last 2 weeks. They didn’t get out in time

Names and ages of some of the children killed in Gaza in the last 2 weeks

Names and ages of some of the children killed in Gaza in the last 2 weeks

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On this Saturday  I attended a 1 hr vigil for the people who have been killed in the Gaza strip, Palestine, in the last 2 weeks .The vigil, organised by the Cambridge Palestine Forum was held in the centre of Cambridge whilst in London upwards of 45,000 people marched calling for an end to the terrible bloodshed, to the blockade of Gaza by Israel and for a boycott of Israel.  

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Reading the names of the dead

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On 22.07.14 a vote was held in the United Nations on a resolution ensuring respect for international law in Palestine  – 

on the 23rd July  –

The Human Rights Council concludes Special Session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Establishes Independent, International Commission of Inquiry for the Occupied Palestinian Territory

“The Human Rights Council today established an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and concluded its Special Session on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

In the resolution, adopted by a vote of 29 States in favour, 1 against and 17 abstentions, the Council condemned in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 13 June 2014 that may amount to international crimes, directly resulting in the killing of more than 650 Palestinians, most of them civilians and more than 170 of whom were children, the injury of more than 4,000 people and the wanton destruction of homes, vital infrastructure and public properties.

In the resolution, the Council decided to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, and to report to the Council at its twenty-eighth session.

Please look carefully at the result of the vote below. The United States of America voted AGAINST the resolution and Europe, including France, Germany, Austria, Ireland , Italy and the UK abstained. In other words they were silent and proved again that when the USA says jump they say how high !  I am ashamed of my government here in the Uk. They did not vote in my name !

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu

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Please read this and consider signing https://secure.avaaz.org/en/israel_palestine_this_is_how_it_ends_loc/?slideshow

Or you might like to write to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs ,Phillip Hammond directly and tell him what you think. You can do that here https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/page/speakout/israel-gaza

So what can you do about it apart from signing petitions. You might like to consider boycotting companies that have strong links with Israel. 

More information: –

here http://www.boycottisraelnetwork.net/ .

and here http://www.boycottisrael.org.uk/

Finally I would ask you to watch this video here by Jon Snow. One of the few journalists around these days who is really doing his job.

Please don’t turn away. These children need us.

you don't need to be a muslim to stand up for Gaza

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I have written about the cost of war and associated issues before –

https://hellenjc.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/save-lives-talk-peace/

https://hellenjc.wordpress.com/2013/04/07/the-human-cost-of-war/

https://hellenjc.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/naming-the-dead/

https://hellenjc.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/is-this-what-we-want-for-our-sons-and-daughters/

https://hellenjc.wordpress.com/2012/03/18/white-feather-caught-in-thorns/

https://hellenjc.wordpress.com/2012/08/05/guns-what-are-they-good-for/

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As ever I welcome your thoughts.

Saturday girl signing off til whenever.

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You can find my photography blog Photomania here 

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