Defence Humanists, a section of the British Humanist Association (BHA), has laid a wreath to mark the sacrifices of British soldiers during the First World War at Tyne Cot Cemetery near Ypres, Belgium, where a memorial wall lists the names of over 34,000 names of soldiers still missing from the conflict. The event, which occurred on 21 June, marked the centenary of the beginning of the First World War, and represents a step towards greater recognition in Europe of deceased service personnel who were not religious.
In Britain, Defence Humanists has campaigned for over five years for humanist representation at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony at the Cenotaph in London, but politicians have continued to reject such calls, in spite of pleas from the families of deceased non-religious service personnel. The Belgian ceremony, by contrast, was state-funded and was attended by a number of international humanist and laïque associations, including deMens, Centre d’Action Laȉque, The European Humanist Federation and The International Humanist and Ethical Union.
Commenting on the ceremony, Defence Humanists representative David Curtin said: ‘On Saturday, we convened to remember the brave actions of the soldiers, sailors and airmen who fought and died here during World War One. Their sacrifices and achievements ought never to be forgotten. I was proud to be able to attend the ceremony in Belgium on behalf of Defence Humanists, and to be able to lay a wreath in honour of those who, though non-religious, made just as significant a contribution to the war effort as their religious counterparts.’
Pavan Dhaliwal, BHA Head of Public Affairs also commented, saying: ‘It is hugely important for the families of deceased humanist service personnel to feel that the contributions of their loved ones are recognised by the countries that they fought for. The invitation of the Defence Humanists to this Belgian remembrance ceremony has been greatly appreciated, but also serves to remind us of the incredible gulf between attitudes to non-religious people in the UK and in the rest of Europe. I would once again call on UK officials to consider the needs of the families of non-religious deceased service personnel and urgently make allowances for a humanist representative to lay a wreath at our Remembrance Day Ceremony in November.’
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs, at email@example.com or on 0773 843 5059.
The Defence Humanists website: http://defencehumanists.org.uk/
The ‘For all those we serve’ campaign micro-site: http://forallwhoserve.org.uk/
Information on Tyne Cot Cemetery: http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/53300/TYNE%20COT%20CEMETERY
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.