16 September 2014
Quakers prepare for peace, not war
Amid escalating world tension, Quakers in Britain say it is crucial to make preparations for peace, not war. Quakers believe every human life is valuable and throughout their 350 year history their faith has led them to work for a fair, just and peaceful world. On United Nations International Day of Peace, Sunday 21 September, Quakers will say that building peace is about tough choices and will challenge the stereotype of peace as the soft option.
“Quakers hold war to be a violation of human life and no way to peace. We say action for good must be nonviolent even if this is the longer road,” says Marigold Bentley, assistant general secretary of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, a part of Quakers in Britain. “Challenging the roots of injustice and conflict is not an easy option. We will mark the global day of action by celebrating initiatives to create a fair equal and peaceful 21st century world, in our schools, in our communities, in our parliaments and in our international relations.”
Currently, Quakers are led by their faith to: • Oppose the increasing militarisation in schools with powerful counter-narratives, producing new resources, called Conscience and Conviction, to enable teachers to help children understand the cost of conscience in war; • Oppose the irresponsible retention of Trident, which bases security on the credible threat to kill millions of innocent people; • Run a fringe event at the Labour Party conference in Manchester, to challenge public figures to say what it means to follow your conscience in a moral 21st century; • Call for the UK government to recognise Palestine as a nation state; • Join the People’s Climate March in London, to call for meaningful commitments on climate change by world leaders meeting in New York for the UN Climate Summit.
In Nottingham, Quakers have helped to organise a week for peace across the city. In Birmingham Quakers are holding a meeting for worship for witness on climate justice. In Dorchester, Quakers will be joining Churches Together to “ring in the peace”.
Quakers in Britain will be hosting a fringe event at the Labour Party Conference at 6.30pm on Sunday 21 September, at Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, Manchester, M2 5NS. Entitled “a moral 21st century nation: shared visions”, the event asks four people to speak about their wider vision for the UK at home and on the world stage. Speakers include: Angela Eagle MP, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Rt Revd David Walker, the Bishop of Manchester, Judith Kirton-Darling MEP and Helen Jackson from Greater Manchester and Merseyside Shelter. The Chair of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Tony Stoller, will chair the event. Quakers are also meeting MPs at the Green, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Party Conferences.
Quakers will be promoting the World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel, from 21 to 27 September. Quakers, other churches and faith-based organisations will be running events across the UK, with this year’s focus on supporting Palestinian prisoners, particularly child prisoners, and Israeli conscientious objectors. Quakers in Britain train and manage human rights observers, called ecumenical accompaniers (EAs) who take part in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), on behalf of the British and Irish Churches and agencies. The EAs work with Israeli and Palestinian activists who monitor the Israeli occupation and report to the UN and others, human rights abuses in the region. At their recent Yearly Meeting Quakers in Britain agreed to call for the UK government to recognise Palestine as a nation state.
In London, Quakers will join a diverse range of groups for the People’s Climate March. They will participate in a multifaith gathering, where a prayer written by Desmond Tutu for the occasion will be read. Elsewhere Quakers will join events facilitated by the global climate campaigning organisation 350.org. More than 1500 events are registered for the day in 130 countries across the world. Sunniva Taylor, Sustainability and Peace programme manager for Quaker Peace & Social Witness, said: “It is very appropriate that these actions fall on the UN International Day of Peace because for Quakers climate change is a peace and justice issue. Climate change is a sign that we are not living peacefully on the Earth, and will only be addressed by global co-operation and a recognition that we need to share resources more equitably.” In 2011 Quakers in Britain made a faith commitment to become a low-carbon sustainable community, recognising that this involves taking personal responsibility to live more simply, and speaking truth to power so as to bring about the necessary changes in policy and practice. A statement issued by Quakers in Britain and other Quaker bodies from around the world ahead of the UN Climate Summit says that Quakers see this is “a call to conscience…We seek to nurture a global human society that prioritises the well-being of people over profit, and lives in right relationship with our Earth; a peaceful world with fulfilling employment, clean air and water, renewable energy, and healthy thriving communities and ecosystems.” The Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO), who have a long and respected history of bringing diverse parties together, and the US-based Friends Committee on National Legislation, will co-host two ‘quiet conversation’ meetings during the Climate Summit. One will bring together interfaith community leaders with climate scientists, while the other will focus on strengthening relationships within the climate advocacy movement.