East London Humanist chairman Paul Kaufman represented those without a religious faith on Remembrance Day

PUBLISHED: 10:03 23 November 2016 | UPDATED: 10:03 23 November 2016


This month, I had the honour of representing Humanists at the Remembrance Day ceremony in neighbouring Tower Hamlets. This was a first for me. More importantly it was, so far as I’m aware, the first time that those without a religious faith have been officially represented at the ceremony in that borough.

Remembrance Day is not about celebrating war – far from it. It’s about commemorating the extraordinary acts of bravery and self-sacrifice individuals have made believing they will help make the world a better place for others and for future generations.

At the last count, 32,000 personnel in the forces described themselves as having no religion. Defence Humanists is a growing organisation which campaigns on their behalf. The patron is historian and TV presenter Dan Snow. It is therefore fitting that the non-religious are represented alongside all of the faith groups that make up the diverse communities in east London and elsewhere.

Remembrance Day should also be a moment to remember all the victims of war, whether civilians or combatants, refugees or conscientious objectors. Further, it should be a time to reflect on the importance of doing everything we can to strive for peace between our different communities.

It should go without saying that making this event one in which the whole community can take part is important in helping to build the trust and understanding that is needed to achieve lasting peace.

The ceremony was a moving one. It had the traditional religious themes running through it, but the sky didn’t fall in due to a “non-believer” taking part. On the contrary, the Humanist presence was warmly welcomed.

Surely the time is ripe to have Remembrance Day ceremonies which are secular, which treat all faiths and beliefs equally, and which truly reflect the face of modern Britain. More from Paul

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