OCCPR to recognize and celebrate Oklahoma conscientious objectors

Conscientious Objectors of Oklahoma to be remembered and honored by peace group at 5/12 event in OKC

On May 12, the Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research will celebrate International Conscientious Objectors Day with its second annual Oklahoma Conscience Award Ceremony and Fundraiser. Conscientious Objectors Day is observed around the world each May 15. This year OCCPR will recognize conscientious objectors from Oklahoma or with an Oklahoma connection (stationed at one of the state’s military bases, did alternative service in Oklahoma, or did time in prison in Oklahoma for refusing to serve), including COs from the 1940s to the present.

The event will be held at Mayflower Congregational UCC Church, 3901 NW 63rd in Oklahoma City, starting at 7pm. The program will include a presentation of certificates to COs or their families, as well as a video featuring interviews with Oklahoma COs and current peace and justice activists who are inspired by them. Musically talented members of the local community, many of whom are members of OCCPR supporting organizations or other peace activists, will provide entertainment. Light refreshments will be served.

The public is invited to attend this free event. Donations will be gratefully accepted to assist the organization in its ongoing work.

Rena Guay, OCCPR Executive Director, says that meeting numerous Oklahoma COs this year has been an eye-opening experience. “I’ve been struck by how many COs from past conflicts are among us, throughout Oklahoma, seemingly average hardworking Oklahomans, who once made a very un-average decision about war.”

“They’ve never sought public acclaim for it, and they shy from this attention. Yet, when we speak to them, they say their refusal, sometimes decades ago, to wage war, and to instead “wage peace” through humanitarian service, was something that has continued to impact their thinking and behavior. It is a major milestone of their lives that almost no one knows about. Our small recognition seeks to give to them this missing public value for their act of conscience.”

“We will also have a moment to remember the many Oklahoma COs who remain unknown, or who have already passed away,” Guay said “Their families are invited to join us, or contact us if they would like for their loved one to be recognized in memorium.”

As the local affiliate of the War Resisters League, OCCPR informs the public, especially young people, about military recruitment, peace-oriented career alternatives, and how to document CO status that can be recognized by the Selective Service should the draft be reinstated. It helps prepare documentation for these proactive COS, and works with the Center on Conscience in Washington to archive and preserve them. The group also serves as the Oklahoma representative for the Bradley Manning Support Network, and works with the GI Rights Network, the Military Law Task Force, Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace, the Peace Alliance, SOA Watch, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and other organizations to educate Oklahomans about war and militarism, and positive advocacy and action to end war and to support nonviolent conflict resolution on a global level.

OCCPR maintains a legal support program to assist those in military service who come to realize they cannot participate in war, to provide them with information about the process of obtaining a CO discharge as defined in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and, when necessary, to retain legal counsel during appeals. The group has recently broadened its outreach to provide more public education on matters of conscience and war, through its own annual journal, and in op-eds and analysis published in periodicals and on the Web.

In every war, there have been those who, following their conscience, have refused to be trained to kill in what they believe to be an immoral activity. The U.S. military has come to allow for these resisters, through either programs of alternative, humanitarian, service, or, in today’s volunteer military, through a process by which those who have developed deeply held religious or moral convictions against war can be documented and, when accepted as sincere, provided an honorable discharge.

OCCPR was founded in 2004 by members of Joy Mennonite Church, Catholic Peace Fellowship, Veterans for Peace, Oklahoma City Friends Meeting (Quakers) and independent activists. It is funded by Oklahoma religious organizations, peace groups and individual citizens. For more information, see visit centerforconscience.org or call 405-773-4741.

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