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Remembering the victims of all wars

As war in Ukraine continues to dominate headlines, Dixe Wills reflects on the importance of remembering all victims of war around the world.

Remembrance Sunday is a chance to commemorate all those affected by war. Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@alyssastevenson?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Alyssa Stevenson</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/collections/wtQfO0Pox68/peace?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>.
Remembrance Sunday is a chance to commemorate all those affected by war. Photo by Alyssa Stevenson on Unsplash.

If you were an extra-terrestrial being tuning into the British media in 2022 you would be forgiven for imagining that there was just a single war taking place on planet Earth. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February this year is a catastrophe on many levels and it's right, of course, that we should be informed about what is going on there.

However, one of the lesser talked about side-effects of the war is that it has almost entirely eradicated coverage of all other armed conflicts around the world. When, for example, did you last read or watch a news report about the civil wars in Yemen, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Somalia or even formerly newsworthy Afghanistan?

It's as if news editors have decided that no one in Britain will be interested in a war in the Middle East, Asia or Africa when we have our very own European war. Of course, the conflict is clearly having an impact on European energy supply and global food production. However, it's hard not to draw the conclusion that this near exclusive focus on Ukraine is at least partially caused by the fact that it's being fought by people who look like white Britons and whose lifestyle and customs are close enough to our own for us to feel a kinship. Furthermore, since the UK is supplying the Ukrainians with weapons and thousands of Ukrainians have sought sanctuary here, there is a sense that this a war we have a stake in.

War around the world

It means that events such as the collapse in September of the shaky six-month truce in Yemen have gone almost unreported. In common with the Ukraine war, the UK has also supplied arms to this conflict. A good portion of the missiles used by Saudi Arabia to kill Yemeni civilians – many of them children – have been sold by UK companies with the blessing of our government (see here for further details: CAAT – The war on Yemen's civilians). But this is a war we prefer not to think we have a stake in.

Several countries in Africa are plagued by deadly conflicts. Most of these involve insurgents within nations and many can trace their root causes back to colonisation by Europeans. In July, al-Shabaab militants, who are waging a campaign of bombings and shootings in Somalia, launched an invasion of Ethiopia, resulting in considerable casualties before they were pushed back. Ethiopia has its own internal Tigray War – setting government forces against the Tigray People's Liberation Front – as well as an armed border dispute with Sudan that has cost many lives. Meanwhile, the self-styled Allied Democratic Forces are fighting against the armies of both Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And all the wars mentioned above are but a small sample of those taking place across the globe right now.

Remembering the 'forgotten' victims of war

Given that all eyes are currently on the war in Ukraine, it's all the more important this Remembrance Sunday for Quakers to join with others to highlight the many forgotten armed conflicts around the world and those who are their victims.

One way of commemorating those affected by war – as well as those who are punished for refusing to take up arms – is by wearing a white poppy. Some people choose to do this instead of wearing a traditional red poppy or alongside one.

Produced each year by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), they represent "remembrance for all victims of all nationalities, a commitment to peace and a rejection of militarism".

This year white poppies are going plastic-free too. Produced for the PPU by Calverts, an east London workers' co-operative, the white poppy is available from the PPU website as well as from over 200 shops and other outlets.

If you'd like to raise funds for the anti-militarism cause, boxes of white poppies are also available from the PPU.

Our hearts go out to all those in Ukraine and Russia who have become victims of the war in Ukraine. On Remembrance Sunday we have a chance to remind others and ourselves that those who suffer in armed conflicts in other parts of the world are just as important.

Find out more about Quaker work for peace