Armed Forces Day, which was launched in 2009 by the then prime minister Gordon Brown, has been given a considerable additional boost by the new prime minister, David Cameron for 26 June 2010.
The stated purpose of the day is to bridge a growing gulf between the armed forces and the general public and encourage support and respect for soldiers.
Others have highlighted a political motivation, to raise support for the Government's military actions, which, in recent years, have been extremely controversial.
Mr Cameron has explicitly identified the use of armed force with "social responsibility" and patriotism, and has said he wants an "explosion of red, white and blue" for AFD and beyond.
The government is not giving any profile to alternatives to military force to address conflict, civilian deaths, the long-term devastation caused by war, or the many thousands of people who provide vital 'unarmed services', including peace-building and peace-keeping, without the use of arms.
Ekklesia's six-point proposal for moving from damaging armed interventions to conflict transformation is outlined here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/12482/
Beneath the jingoism which sections of the media are encouraging around the event, the polling evidence (including Ekklesia's ComRes survey of attitiudes to Remembrance in November 2009) is that the public are feeling more sanguine about Britain's massive investment in the military - which includes a defence budget of £35 billion ring-fenced against cuts, a projected £70 - £100 billion on replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system (which experts say is largely redundant in a post-Cold War global polity), and more than £20 billion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Armed Forces Day is one part of a wider movement to expand the reach of the army, including the recruitment of more cadets.
Many also view this event as another effort on the part of the Government to feign a genuine commitment to looking after soldiers and veterans. The reality, critics point out, is that those returning from war often find little useful or real help in re-integrating into society.
Many churches and other civic organisations will feel that a celebration of the armed forces in this kind of uncritical way is not appropriate. Many will feel that there are better ways of showing love and care for soldiers and civilians alike.
Last year, Ekklesia developed a page of resources to help churches and others engage with Armed Forces Day in a way that more accurately reflects the belief of many that war is no solution - and indeed that what we need are more unarmed services - those with professional conflict transformation and resolution skills - operating in conflict zones.
Real respect for those whose lives are caught up with the military comes from seeking ways of ending conflict and replacing the "just another war" ideology with concrete action towards just-peace.
Here we feature some updated materials.
You can add an "Unarmed Forces Day logo like this one to your website and show your support using the following code:
<a href="http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/resources/armed_forces_day"><img src="http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/files/images/unarmed_forces_day_0.bmp" border="0" alt="Un-armed Forces Day"></a>
1. Resources for Armed Forced Day
2. Ideas for Children on Armed Forced Day
3. Charities Supporting War Casualties
4. Useful Websites for Armed Forced Day
Below is a list of resources to inspire worship on a theme of peace for churches, peacemaking groups, families and children, or with home groups.
Liturgies for Peace and Repentance
Liturgies for peace and repentance are available from Pax Christi (http://www.paxchristi.org.uk/litgy1.htm) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (http://www.for.org.uk/worship). The Movement to Abolish War has also produced a collection of readings, reflections, prayers, hymns and other resources called Remembrance for Today (http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/resources.php?p=5#Publications)
Directory of Catholic Peacemaking Resources
Catholic Peacemaking has a comprehensive directory of resources, including church, spiritual, multimedia and personal resources, inspired by Pope John Paul II's wish that we would fight for justice without violence. (http://www.catholicpeacemaking.com/HomePage)
Bible Studies on Peace
Bible studies on peace for use in smaller groups are available from the World Council of Churches movement Overcoming Violence (http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources/wcc-resources/bible-studi...). Pax Christi also has a number of resources exploring peace and spirituality (http://www.paxchristi.org.uk/pubs.HTML)
Videos about Peace
The World Council of Churches' movement Overcoming Violence has produced several videos with stories about the impact of violence, reality of war and blessing of peace from around the world.
(http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources/wcc-resources/videos.html). Peaceful Tomorrows, an organisation created by families bereaved in the 9/11 bombings, has also produced a video exploring the impact of 9/11 on these families, Beyond Retribution (http://www.peacefultomorrows.org/article.php?list=type&type=65). The Movement for the Abolition of War has made War No More, a short video featuring Desmond Tutu, Martin Bell, Jon Snow and others that aims to inspire discussion (http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/resources.php?p=5#Videos). The Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB) has produced a DVD and accompanying booklet based around an NFPB conference on Building Peace – Tackling Racism, held in Huddersfield in March 2008 (http://nfpb.gn.apc.org/bptr/dvdinfo.htm) Also from NFPB is the ‘Visions of Peace’ DVD - a collage of interviews with Quakers talking about the inspiration and motivation for their peace work (available from 0845 458 3095 / email@example.com). The WMD Awareness Programme have a short film ‘Anthropology 101’ which raises awareness about the dangers of nuclear weapons and features a soundtrack by Brian Eno (http://www.comeclean.org.uk/articles.php?articleID=301 ). ‘Where is the Love?’ is a documentary film made by school children in East London where a bi-annual arms fair takes place (http://www.filmmakersagainstwar.org/). 'Soldiers of Peace' is a collection of stories about the power of peacemaking from 14 countries around the globe (http://www.soldiersofpeacemovie.com/index.php).
Art For Peace
Every genre of art – poetry, music, painting – is used to campaign for peace. Songs for the Road to Peace, a collection of religious songs and hymns, is available from the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship (http://www.anglicanpacifists.com/index.php/8/resources) Make Peace Not War have produced four CDs of popular music for peace by unsigned artists (http://www.peace-not-war.org/shop/volume-1.php). The Movement for the Abolition of War have two albumns of protest songs (http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/resources.php?p=5#CDs) and the World Council of Churches has created a CD of Argentinian peace songs and a ballet about peace (http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources/wcc-resources/worship-pra...).
Women in Black UK has the work of two modern female poets inspired by peace and war on its website, Kate Evans and Isabel Ros Lopez (http://www.womeninblack.org.uk/Poetry.htm). A collection of art works about peace can be seen at Make Peace Not War (http://www.peace-not-war.org/gallery/index.php)
Stories about Peace
The Forgiveness Project has a large collection of stories about the power of forgiveness in bringing peace, which could inspire discussion (http://www.theforgivenessproject.com/stories/anne-gallagher ). Pax Christi has a series of publications on the Lives of Peacemakers (http://www.paxchristi.org.uk/pubs.HTML) and the Peace Pledge Union has an Education microsite, with stories about peacemakers and conscientious objectors, as well as general information about conflict and peace for children and young people (http://www.learnpeace.org.uk/).
Exhibitions about peace
The Network of Christian Peace Organisations have an 8-panel exhibition presenting peace from an ecumenical Christian peacemaking perspective (www.whatispeace.org). Quaker Peace & Social Witness have an eight-panel exhibition introducing ‘sustainable security’ – the long-term resolution of the root causes of conflict and insecurity (http://www.quaker.org.uk/shared_asp_files/GFSR.asp?NodeID=155441). Conscience, the Peace Tax Campaign, has a downloadable exhibition consisting of three sections on peace tax, human rights and non-military security to help raise awareness of peace tax and the taxes spent on the military (http://www.conscienceonline.org.uk/Pages/_subSections/supportPages/getIn...). The Peace Museum in Bradford has traveling exhibitions on five different peace-related topics, including ‘A vision shared’, ‘My country the whole world: Women Peacemakers’, ‘Champions of Peace: Nobel Peace Prize, The First Hundred Years’, ‘Such a Journey’ and ‘Hiroshima & Nagasaki’ (01274 434009 / firstname.lastname@example.org).
Postcards, Posters, Badges and the Like
Quaker Peace & Social Witness has a website devoted to peace resources, events, action opportunities, information about volunteering and courses and other peace links (http://www.peaceexchange.org.uk). The Peace Pledge Union have produced a number of postcards and posters promoting peace (http://www.ppu.org.uk/sales/index.html). Similar resources are also available from the Fellowship of Reconciliation (http://www.for.org.uk/node/245), the World Council of Churches (http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources/wcc-resources/leaflets.html), the Movement for the Abolition of War (http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/resources.php?p=5), the Northern Friends Peace Board (http://nfpb.gn.apc.org/resrces.htm) and Pax Christi. Make Peace Not War has cotton “Make Peace Not War” bags and T-shirts (http://www.peace-not-war.org/shop/merchandise.php) and Peace One Day has a variety of peace accessories (http://www.peaceoneday.org/comersus7F/store/comersus_index.asp). Peace Tax Seven greetings cards with an attractive peace design by Arthur Windsor are available from Ursula Windsor, 4 Brunswick Square, Gloucester, GL1 1UG (01452 549 669). Peace News has also produced some posters and leaflets specifically promoting Unarmed Forces Day (http://unarmedforcesday.wordpress.com/).
Books and Pamphlets About Peacemaking
'Peacemaking, a Christian Vocation' is available from the URC bookshop (http://books.urc2.org.uk/item.asp?ItemID=1226). ‘Think Peace’ is a series of booklets from Quaker Peace & Social Witness exploring the meaning of peace (http://www.quaker.org.uk/Templates/Internal.asp?NodeID=91080). 'Preparing For Peace - by asking the experts to analyse war' presents the findings of a five year inquiry into whether war works as an instrument of policy in the twenty-first century, (020 7663 1030 / http://www.preparingforpeace.org/). 'Rethinking war and peace' by Diana Francis mounts a head-on challenge to the belief that war as an institution is either necessary or effective for good (020 7663 1030). 'Peace in the 21st Century' is a series of short papers on key themes relating to peace from the Methodist Peace Fellowship (http://mpf.org.uk/page2.html).
Ten Top Ways for Peacemaking Today
The Fellowship For Reconciliation has a summary of "Ten Top Ways to Make Peace", which gives practical ideas for using these resources (http://www.for.org.uk/node/222 ).
Information About Military Recruitment and Conscientious Objection
‘Informed Choice’ is an independent report on the subject of armed forces recruitment practices in the UK (http://www.informedchoice.org.uk/). http://www.beforeyousignup.info/ is a website for people thinking of joining the armed forces – it offers impartial advice and recommended questions to ask recruiters. War Resisters’ International has a comprehensive database of known prisoners for peace and conscientious objectors (http://www.wri-irg.org/programmes/pfp). In addition, the Peace Pledge Union has a CO Archive and Education Resource (http://www.coproject.org.uk/).
Join the Facebook Group "Alternatives to Armed Forces Day" to link up with people who share your beliefs (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=14004639398)
2. Ideas For Children and Young People
Wear Black for Armed Forces Day
If you believe war is something to be mourned, why not join like-minded others in wearing black for armed forces day. Join the Facebook group (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=114668862081#/group.php?gid=114668...), or email email@example.com
Make Your Own Flag
The Government have designed a flag specially for Armed Forces Day, based on the Union Jack. This clearly demonstrates their desire to incite patriotic sentiment, support for themselves and effectively celebrate war. A simple flag-making activity will help children explore expressions of peace:
Give each child a piece of paper and access to colouring pencils / craft materials. Ask them to design a “flag for peace”, which they could wave in support of peace. You could print off some different peace symbols for inspiration.
Help children find out about the life of a peacemaker (using one of the resources listed above). Use this as inspiration to write a postcard to your local MP or a friend about why you think peace is important.
Get a map of the world and some stories about and pictures of conflict from newspapers. Use these as inspiration to write prayers for peace, which can then be pinned to the map. You could encourage children to focus on writing prayers for the children who suffer as a result of war.
Making Paper Cranes
Quaker Peace & Social Witness offers a worksheet on making paper cranes which includes the inspiring story of Sadako Suzuki, the young girl from Hiroshima (http://www.quaker.org.uk/Shared_ASP_Files/UploadedFiles/88A59A46-089E-4E...)
The Peace Pledge Union has two books of games for children: Parachute Games, suitable for primary school children, which introduces values of cooperation in a fun and non-dogmatic fashion, and Cooperative Games, which challenges “competitive theory of motivation” and argues that children learn spontaneously (http://www.ppu.org.uk/sales/index.html)
Make Tea Not War
Host a tea party and use one of the films listed above about peace to inspire a discussion about why commitment to peace is important. Fairtrade tea and other products are a way of highlighting the just use of resources, a concern behind many conflicts in the world today.
Collage For Peace
Use newspaper cuttings, pens and paints to create a “collage for peace”.
Make Your Own Vox Pop
Take a video camera out and ask people on the street whether they think our Government should be more committed to peace.
Organise a Flyer Campaign
Use the leaflets available from Peace News to publicise Unarmed Forces Day to your neighbourhood (http://unarmedforcesday.wordpress.com/).
Blog For Peace
Write a blog about why you think peace is important. If you don't have a blog, why not use your Facebook Profile or Twitter to tell everyone what you think about peace.
Organise an Assembly
Ask you head teacher if you can give an assembly on peace-making. You could talk about the life of a peace-maker you admire or impact of war or why you think peace is important.
Armed Forces Impact
This new resource from Pax Christi is a great basis for starting discussion with young people about the reality of life in the armed forces. Available for download at (http://www.paxchristi.org.uk/PeaceEd.HTML)
Create a Peace Garden for your school or church
Create a place of reconciliation, remembrance, healing, dialogue, combining a range of approaches and activities that bring people together to explore the meaning of peace for their local community. Pax Christi has produced a brochure to help get things going with practical ideas and models of gardens already created (http://www.paxchristi.org.uk/pubs.HTML)
Peace Education Resources
The Peace Education Network (PEN) has produced a free guide for all those involved in educating for a just and peaceful world (http://www.peaceeducation.org.uk/downloads/PEN_Curriculum_document.pdf). PEN provides resources for all stages of the national curriculum (http://www.peaceeducation.org.uk/resources)
3. Charities Supporting War Casualties
War can have a devastating impact on soldiers' lives. This is only exacerbated without adequate support to aid recovery. Donating to a charity that supports war casualties is a good way of helping these soldiers, for example:
foundation4peace.org/survivor-peace.htm - The Survivors for Peace programme is aimed at people in the United Kingdom who have been bereaved, injured and witnesses or themselves engaged in acts of politically motivated violence, such as the 'Troubles', 9/11, 7/7, military campaigns and conflicts. It enables people to make a contribution to peace building by turning a painful and challenging experience into a positive opportunity for development,
4. Useful Websites
Network of Christian Peace Organisations - http://www.ncpo.org.uk/
Alternatives To Violence - http://www.avpbritain.org.uk/
Anglican Pacifist Fellowship - http://www.anglicanpacifists.com/index.php/1/home
Baptist Peace Fellowship - http://www.baptist-peace.org.uk/
Before you sign up - http://www.beforeyousignup.info/
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) Christian Network - http://www.caat.org.uk/getinvolved/christian/
Catholic Peacemaking - http://www.catholicpeacemaking.com/HomePage
Catholic Worker - http://www.catholicworker.org/
Christian International Peace Service (CHIPS) - http://www.chipspeace.org/
Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) - http://ccnd.gn.apc.org/
Christian Peacemaker Teams (UK) - http://www.cptuk.org.uk/
Church and Peace - http://www.church-and-peace.org/
Community for Reconciliation - http://ajplant.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/cfr/welcome.html
Concilliation Resources - http://www.c-r.org/
Decade to Overcome Violence, WCC - http://www.overcomingviolence.org/en.html
EAPPI – http://www.eappi.org
Fellowship of Reconciliation, England (FoR) - http://www.for.org.uk/
Informed Choice - http://www.informedchoice.org.uk/
International Alert - http://www.international-alert.org/
Justice and Peace Network - http://www.justice-and-peace.org.uk/
London Mennonite Centre - http://www.menno.org.uk/
Medact - http://www.medact.org/
Methodist Peace Fellowship - http://www.mpf.org.uk
Milispend – http://www.milispend.org
Movement for the Abolition of War - http://www.abolishwar.org.uk/
Network for Peace – http://www.networkforpeace.org.uk
Nonviolent Peaceforce - http://www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org/
Northern Friends Peace Board (NFPB) - http://nfpb.gn.apc.org/
Pax Christi - http://www.paxchristi.org.uk/index.html
Peace Direct - http://www.peacedirect.org/
Peace Pays – http://www.peacepays.org
Peace Pledge Union - http://www.ppu.org.uk/
Peace News – http://www.peacenews.info
Peace Not War - http://www.peace-not-war.org/
Peace School - http://www.peaceschool.org.uk/
Preparing for Peace - http://www.preparingforpeace.org/
Quaker Peace & Social Witness – http://www.quaker.org.uk/qpsw
Responding To Conflict - http://www.respond.org/
Saferworld - http://www.saferworld.org.uk/
SPEAK - http://www.speak.org.uk/
The Forgiveness Project - http://www.theforgivenessproject.com/
Third Order of St Francis - http://www.jpc-sec.org.uk/TSSF_JPIC/home.html
United Nations Association - http://www.una.org.uk/
United Reformed Church Peace Fellowship - http://www.urc.org.uk/
War Resisters’ International – http://www.wri-irg.org
WMD Awareness Programme – http://www.comeclean.org.uk
With thanks and acknowledgments to Kate Guthrie