International Volunteers for Peace [Service Civil International] began in Europe after World War I. In this interview Rita Warleigh talks about her own ethical development and activism and her first contact with the organisation in Italy in the 1980s. In the excerpt below Rita discusses the organisation’s beginnings in the years following the carnage of World War I.
It [Service Civil International, precursor to International Volunteers for Peace] was set up in, it started in 1920. Pierre Ceresole was a peace activist. I mean there were a lot of peace activists in those days after the First World War, apparently, a lot of people very, very actively trying to find ways to create peace in the world. So the idea was, yes, having this international team and developing peace through understanding; but also they lobbied the government to set up an alternative to military service. So, look, the name Service Civil International means ‘the opposite of national military service’. So they wanted a civilian service where people could serve and help the community, doing things that were good for everyone, not just training up to kill someone because they came from the other side of the fence. So they lobbied governments to have that accepted as a sort of alternative, and so it’s because of Service Civil International that we have conscientious objection as a legal alternative.