One hundred years of conscience
A significant moment in 'peace history' was marked by a service at Heaton Baptist Church in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on Sunday evening (7pm, 24 January).
The service marks the centenary of the passing of the Military Service Act, which introduced conscription to Britain to make up for the falling number of men volunteering to fight in World War 1. Many people refused to be conscripted on grounds of religion and/or political conscience, and faced hostility, imprisonment, torture and even the threat of execution for their stand. The act therefore heralded the birth of the conscientious objection movement in the UK.
Called 100 Years of Conscience, the service will honour the memory of these men, and the women who worked alongside them by playing leading roles in the search for a peaceful solution to the conflict.
It has been organised by Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee, which seeks to honour the legacy of Baptist minister the Revd Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s visit to Newcastle in 1967. Heaton Baptist Church has a history of supporting Conscientious Objectors and of involvement in early nonviolent political action which inspired the later work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
'Designed to be open and accessible to all, regardless of religious or political conviction, this informal and participatory service will tell their stories through historical sketches and personal narratives, music, and visual representations,' said the event organisers.
'It will draw on research from the city’s two universities, plus the activities and projects of local community groups. The service will also showcase items from the recent ‘Voices and Choices’ exhibition, which marks the individual choices made during World War 1. Time will be set aside for quiet personal reflection, or group discussion over refreshments about the choices faced 100 years ago and today.'
Nick Megoran is a co-convenor of the Northumbria and Newcastle Universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee and member at Heaton Baptist Church. He said, 'We are used to marking 'war history' every November and at the significant centenaries of big battles. Join a range of people at Heaton Baptist Church, Newcastle, this Sunday night to mark a significant moment in 'peace history' - the birth in the UK of the conscientious objection movement with the introduction of conscription exactly 100 years ago.'