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Appeal for Edinburgh Memorial to Conscientious Objectors

Kate Ive's design for a bronze peace tree sculpture will create a space for reflection on alternatives to war in the midst of eight war memorials

The campaign for a memorial to conscientious objectors to be located amidst eight war memorials in Princes St Gardens in Edinburgh has now raised over £28,000, just under half way to the target. The proposal was approved by a key City Council committee in October.  

The engaging sculpture, designed by Edinburgh artist Kate Ive, will be dedicated to Conscientious Objectors and all who oppose war and provide space for reflection on alternatives to war. Fundraising is underway to cover the costs of casting the bronze sculpture and installation in Princes St Gardens in time for the centenary of the end of imprisonment of First World War COs in August 2019.

The peace tree sculpture will feature bronze cast handkerchiefs embroidered with the names of First World War COs and emblems of groups who promote peacebuilding and conflict resolution symbolizing a diverse, international peace movement that has flourished over the past century.

Pete Cannell of Edinburgh Stop the War, a partner on Memorial Committee, said “There were nearly 20,000 COs during the First World War and 60,000 in the Second. Conscientious objection and opposition to war is a significant part of our history, especially in Scotland, yet it is scarcely recognised in public space. Those who have fought and died in past wars are widely remembered with 37 war memorials in Edinburgh alone. It’s time for a memorial to COs in Scotland’s capital.”

Zareen Taj, who represents the Muslim Women’s Association on the Memorial Committee said: “By inviting reflection on the role of those who followed their own consciences, the Memorial will celebrate the values of liberty, humanism and tolerance at a time when these values are threatened.”

Edinburgh University Lecturer Historian Dr Lesley Orr said “The Memorial will honour not just mostly male COs but also the equally important women who have marched and taken action against war and for peace, women like Chrystal Macmillan who travelled from Edinburgh to attend a women’s peace conference in the Hague during the First World War and Helen Crawfurd and Mary Barbour, organisers of the Women’s Peace Crusades across Scotland.”

The Memorial has the support of several Parliamentarians and City Councillors. Scottish Greens Co-Convenor Patrick Harvie said “On this 100th anniversary of the armistice, Scotland marks the bravery of those who fought, but it still has no memorial to those other brave people who risked imprisonment, torture or execution by their own Government for having the courage to say no, they would not kill their fellow human beings. This memorial will offer a place to reflect on the lives of those who have worked for peace in our history and around the world.”

Alison Johnstone MSP said: “A memorial to COs and war resisters in Princes St Gardens, set amongst numerous war memorials, will rightly encourage visitors to this World Heritage site in Scotland’s capital city, to reflect on the possibilities of peacebuilding and conflict resolution and on the traditions of individual liberty and internationalism that have shaped current political and cultural norms such as tolerance and diversity.

Tommy Sheppard wrote: Conscientious objection and opposition to war has been especially strong in Scotland, making up a significant part of our shared history, yet there is little space for recognising the voices of those who have resisted wars.”

Brian Larkin, Coordinator of Edinburgh Peace & Justice Centre which is coordinating the campaign for the Memorial, said “With fifty wars taking place around the world today and conscription returning to half a dozen countries the memorial will include those who are currently resisting conscription in places like Turkey and Israel. With students in Cambridge rejecting the promotion of red poppies and movements to challenge the naming of streets and buildings for men who profited from the slave trade, the time is right for war memorials at least to be balanced with spaces for reflection on the way of peace.”

Organisers aim to raise donations of £59,000 toward total costs of £167,000. An associated website www.opposingwar.scot includes the stories of Edinburgh COs. Donations can be made at https://chuffed.org/project/opposing-war-memorial.

For more information and High Res photos contact: Brian Larkin: 07584 492257  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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