15 February 1926 - 15 December 2006
Jean Van Lierde, who died in Brussels on 15 December, was the main figure behind the long political struggle for the recognition of the right to CO in Belgium, which resulted in 1964 in the law creating alternative civilian service. He was a friend and adviser to Patrice Lumumba, the Congo's first post-independence prime minister, and published several books and articles on Lumumba. He worked closely with WRI for many decades, including serving as vice-chair and treasurer, as a member of Council, and as a leading member of MIR-IRG, the French-speaking WRI section in Belgium.
Appreciation from the European Bureau for Conscientious Objectors (EBCO/BEOC)
Jean Van Lierde, Honorary President of the European Bureau for Conscientious Objection, and founder of this European CO network in 1986, humanist, anti-fascist and anti-militarist died on 15 December 2006 at the age of 80. He lived for the peace movement and the struggle against colonialism, and for the liberation and freedom of all people.
Born in Charleroi, of a Walloon mother and a Flemish father, he grew up in a poor Catholic family. He joined a resistance movement against the Nazis at the age of 15 but, as a pacifist, he rejected the idea of his group killing
German soldiers who had surrendered. Growing up in the Christian Democratic movement, where he always had close friends, he became involved at the end of the war with progressive movements, pacifists, socialists and communists. He became the first conscientious objector in post war Belgium, was banned by his country and by his priest for this and started his lifelong struggle for the recognition of conscientious objection, first in Belgium and in Europe, later with War Resisters International (WRI) worldwide. He supported the Buddhist non-violent movement in Vietnam and campaigned for the liberation of imprisoned pacifists in the Soviet system. He went to prison as a "deserter" and worked in the coal mines of Marcinelle as the first objector in an "alternative service", he joked. His Belgian CO law became reality only in 1964.
With the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) and WRI Sections
in Belgium he had meanwhile organised the rescue of French and US deserters seeking refuge from the Algerian and Vietnam wars. He became advisor to the first President of the former Belgian colony of Congo and campaigned for the investigation of Lumumba's murder, also, until recently, searching in the archives of the Belgian government. He created a research institute in Belgium with a global reputation - centre de recherche et d'information socio-politique.(CRISP) - and a "Peace House" for peace and non-violent groups at rue van Elewijk 35 in Ixelles, where for more than 30 years dozens of Belgian and international organisations have worked together as collective owners of this space.
A European pacifist has left us, a Belgian who always refused to speak any
language other than French. His sense of humour nevertheless made him
friends around the world. "The world he left would still have needed this
deserter" wrote Marc Metdepenningen in "Le Soir" this Monday, 18 December.
We will miss him.
Gerd Greune, EBCO President