International Conscientious Objectors Day is observed globally on May 15 every year. The day celebrates every individual who has and continues to resist war in many ways, including the refusal to participate in the military structure. The day was created by the Peace Pledge Union to raise awareness about and honor conscientious objectors. On this day, individuals and organizations around the world congregate to show their appreciation for conscientious objectors and the impact they’ve had on the military history of the world. International Conscientious Objectors Day is celebrated in nearly every corner of the world — from Colombia to Turkey, from Serbia to the United States.
History of International Conscientious Objectors Day
A conscientious objector is an “individual who has claimed the right to refuse to perform military service.” They do so on grounds like conscience, religion, freedom of thought, etc. The first-ever record of a conscientious objector was in Ancient Rome as far back as 295 A.D. A man by the name of Maximilianus was conscripted to the Roman Army but claimed that he could not serve due to his religious convictions — he was consequently executed.
A very early recognition was granted to the Dutch Mennonites by William the Silent in 1575. They were granted the right to refuse military service in exchange for money. This provision was not a formal legislation, however. The latter first happened in 1757 following Quakers’ attempts to form a British Militia as a national military reserve. The Militia Ballot Act allowed the aforementioned Quakers to be exempt from military service. The United States, since its very founding, has permitted conscientious objectors, though regulation of the provision was left to independent states.
Conscientious objectors are philosophically linked to the anti-war movement. Throughout history, people have protested war. The roots of the movement date back to the American Revolutionary War when British people protested against British war intervention in America, which led to the House of Commons voting against further war in America in 1783. This eventually led to the Peace of Paris.
International Conscientious Objectors Day timeline
Maximilianus refuses to serve in the Roman Army and is consequently executed.
William the Silent recognizes conscientious objectors and gives Dutch Mennonites the right to refuse military service.
The Militia Ballot Act allows Quakers to refuse military service.
Anti-war protests in Britain lead to the House of Commons voting against further British participation in the American Revolutionary War.
International Conscientious Objectors Day FAQs
Can you still be a conscientious objector?
Yes, you can. Each country has a different system of recognition, though.
What religions are conscientious objectors?
‘Peace churches’ oppose war — these include Mennonites, Quakers, and Church of the Brethren.
Do conscientious objectors go to jail?
They do in certain countries, depending on whether conscientious objectors are legally recognized.
How to Observe International Conscientious Objectors Day
Read about conscientious objectors
Not familiar with what a conscientious objector is? Look the term up and learn all there is to know.
Understand the anti-war movement
The concept of conscientious objectors is rooted in the anti-war movement. Try to understand it if you are so inclined.
Talk about it on social media
Help International Conscientious Objectors Day by raising awareness about it on social media. Use the hashtag #InternationalConscientiousObjectorsDay to further your reach.
5 Facts About The Anti-war Movement
The anti-war movement officially began to protest American involvement in the Vietnam war.
The anti-war movement is also known as the peace movement.
Ali famously refused conscription and consequently faced a three-year ban from boxing.
Martin Luther King Jr.
King Jr. famously supported the movement.
U.S. President, Richard Nixon, vowed to snuff out the protests, claiming that the ‘silent’ majority supported the war.
Why International Conscientious Objectors Day is Important
It raises awareness
International Conscientious Objectors Day raises awareness about the existence of conscientious objectors. Considering that the term isn’t that well-known, this awareness is immensely important.
It celebrates anti-war sentiments
War is incredibly destructive and traumatizing. International Conscientious Objectors Day helps highlight anti-war sentiments to oppose structures supporting war.
It highlights valid criticisms of war
Conscientious objectors present very valid criticisms of war. We think they are extremely important to highlight.
International Conscientious Objectors Day dates