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(29/08/2005)

100th Birthday of Finnish Pacifist Arndt Pekurinen
(August 29th 1905-November 5th 1941)


This week, For Mother Earth and the Case Hermaja campaign remember Arndt Pekurinen, a peace activist and chairman of the Finnish Anti-Militarist League in the late 1920s. He is the most known of hundreds of Finnish pacifists who were executed or imprisoned during the II World War.

He refused military service in 1926 and was therefore repeatedly imprisoned between 1929 and 1931. The motives of Pekurinen were neither religious nor party political, but because he held uncompromising pacifist beliefs. He was the most notable person of the Finnish pacifist movement at the time. Activists from the political extreme right harassed him continuously.

The main goal of the Finnish pacifist movement in 1920s was to get legislation for an alternative service scheme alongside the obligatory military service. This succeeded after international political presssure mounted against repeated imprisoning of Mr Pekurinen. An international petition on his behalf was sent to the Defense Minister in 1930. Signatories included among others 60 members of the British Parliament, and notable persons such as Albert Einstein, Henri Barbusse and H.G. Wells. "Lex Pekurinen", the first alternate service law of Finland, was passed. However, the law covered only peacetime. Military service is still obligatory during war time.

At the beginning of the Winter War against Russia in 1939, Pekurinen was convicted again, and setnced to three years in prison. In the early attack phase of the Continuation War (where Finland fought alonside Germany against Russia) in Autumn 1941, he was released and sent to the front. Pekurinen refused to wear a uniform or carry arms, and was therefore executed in Suomussalmi, Northern Finland. The first two soldiers who were ordered to shoot him refused.

After the war, an investigation of his execution was started, but never finished. For more than 50 years his fate remained out of public eye but in 1998 a book describing his life was written by Erno Paasilinna- "Courage: the life and execution of Arndt Pekurinen."

His motto was inspired by Jonathan Swift:
"As people are not eaten, butchering them is of no use."

For more information: www.hermaja.org

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Friends of the Earth Flanders & Brussels (formerly For Mother Earth) is a member of Friends of the Earth International