Often we hear of wars, violent conflict, armed clashes; we hear of the death toll – not often accurate in terms of the numbers; we do not hear the names of those who are dead unless they are members of the armed forces of ‘our’ country. At least in the UK, members of the armed forces killed in action are always named on the news.
But what of the countless deaths that occur in violent, armed conflict that are never recorded, never accounted for?
A new charter has been launched to do something about them. It is a charter for those most immediate and direct victims whose violent deaths and identities are often lost to the public record. As Dan Smith says: ‘the charter is not just to count but to recognise every casualty’.
We need to know the names of all the people who die in wars and violent, armed conflicts.
We need to know the real cost of war. As Gandhi said: I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. War is about causing death; the least we can do is to recognise this.
Quakers believe fundamentally in that of God – or the good – in everyone; we believe that all people are equal in the sight of God. We therefore cannot walk by when someone is killed in violent conflict and pretend that this is a price worth paying.
The charter was launched by the Oxford Research Group and is endorsed by 48 organisations – among them Quaker Council for European Affairs and Quaker Peace and Social Witness.
So what is the point of the charter and of endorsing it? Isn’t it just another set of words? The charter calls on states to promptly record, correctly identify and publicly acknowledge every direct casualty of armed violence. Of course, there will be objections from states. Of course, this won’t be embraced by all states (or even any states) immediately and without fuss.
But we have to start the process somewhere. This is a starting point. We can inform our elected representatives of this charter and ask that they take the necessary action to get the government in our country to accept the responsibilty the charter places upon them, to implement it appropriately and to work for its international recognition.