Human Rights Day December 10: Celebrate Peace

December 11th, 2023 - by Yurii Sheliazhenko / Ukrainian Pacifist Movement

Human Rights Day December 10: Celebrate Peace
Yurii Sheliazhenko / Ukrainian Pacifist Movement

KYIV (December 9, 2023) — On 10 December the world, including Ukraine, will celebrate Human Rights Day, the 75th birthday of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I recorded my congratulations a bit earlier:

On Human Rights Day Celebrate
the Right to Peace and Right to Refuse to Kill 


Dear Friends, Greetings from Kyiv,
Air raid alerts, cold shelter in the nearest underground parking and tragic updates about new deaths are my daily life under martial law during the criminal Russian invasion of Ukraine. Additionally to regular pains of war experienced by all relatively lucky citizens who managed to survive mass killing, the life of a pacifist is full of additional hardships.

I am talking not only about everyday nonviolent resistance to war and militarism in words and deeds, a burden of responsibility for a better future depending on conscience and efforts of a few enthusiasts who dare to dream and work for a world without wars in a hostile environment.

More painful is that peace dreamers are repressed. Conscientious objectors are jailed. I am under house arrest and risk to be tried and jailed for up to five years for alleged justification of Russian aggression in antiwar statement, which condemns it.

My letter to President Zelensky was dangerous, they say, because nonviolent resistance is utopian and the army doesn’t like conscientious objection. See, you can’t dream about peace, you must adopt utopian ideas of the propaganda of war to make all people soldiers and to wipe Russia off of the world map.

You should also think that Putin just bluffed when he said these horrible things about nukes and why he would not need the world without Russia. You must want to defeat Russia, they call it “morale.” And if you live in Russia, the same sort of immoral “morale” requires you to kill Ukrainians — portrayed as Nazis — and defeat Ukraine.

A picture with woman showing heart by hands from behind the bars in Saint Petersburg captured my imagination: Sasha Skochilenko said: “When you imprison pacifists, you delay peace” — and she was jailed for 7 years.

More than a half million people were killed, but that didn’t stop Presidents Putin and Zelensky from announcements of more military recruitment to sacrifice more lives in endless, pointless and senseless war.

No equivalence here, of course: aggressors must be held accountable and reasonable self-defense is right thing to do, though I would rather do it without violence.

When you respond violently to violence, suffering and destruction multiplies. People feel it and know it, that’s why people “vote with their feet” against the war when it is possible. More than a million Russians escaped Putin’s tyranny, not to mention those who fled from his complicit dictator, Lukashenko, and more than a half-million of Ukrainian refugees hide in Europe from cruel conscription, from abduction of draftees on the streets.

Every person saved from the meat grinder of war is a triumph of life and a step towards peace. That’s why we need to support the Object to War Campaign aimed at providing protection and asylum to all those who risk to be repressed for refusal to kill in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

The right to refuse to kill is absolute, because human life and dignity is sacred. I wish the serfdom of conscription could be prohibited by international law, because without such an authoritarian tool, it would be hard to wage long and monstrous wars.

Peace is a human right, it demands care instead of hate towards others, and war is no excuse for violations of freedom of conscience. We should remember and advocate that on the eve of Human Rights Day. I congratulate you with this meaningful date coming, and I wish you peace and happiness.

Never give up your hopes and your efforts for the world where people will forget how to wage wars.

Wishing you peace and happiness.

Бажаю миру і щастя!

Yurii Sheliazhenko, Ph.D. (Law)
Executive secretary, Ukrainian Pacifist Movement
Board member, European Bureau for Conscientious Objection (Brussels, Belgium)
Member of the Board of Directors, World BEYOND War (Charlottesville, VA, United States)
Member of the Council, International Peace Bureau (Berlin, Germany)
Member of the Council, War Resisters’ International (London, UK)
LL.M., B.Math, Master of Mediation and Conflict Management