peace testimony quakers


It has become increasingly apparent to [us] that new understandings and a change of heart within our own nation are an essential prerequisite to international reforms which might serve the interests of the most vulnerable nations and people. Peace begins within ourselves. During the American War of Independence, the Quaker whaling community on the island of Nantucket suffered heavily from both sides for their neutrality. We must start with our own hearts and minds. And I do not think that, in political terms, it was possible to contemplate coming to any sort of political compromise with it… Speaking personally as a Christian pacifist, I had a far deeper sense of spiritual unity with those of my friends in the fighting services who, detesting war as deeply as I did, yet felt that there was no other way in which they could share in the agony of the world, than I had with those pacifists who talked as if the suffering of the world could be turned off like a water tap if only politicians would talk sensibly together. Our faith in action Quaker work has led to a recognition of the right to conscientious objection to military service and has involved relief and ambulance work in war-stricken areas. We look to the Spirit, rather than to prescriptive hypothetical statements. It is of a community of peoples which acts towards individuals and other communities as we would have others act towards us. The places to begin acquiring the skills and maturity and generosity to avoid or to resolve conflicts are in our own homes, our personal relationships, our schools, our workplaces, and wherever decisions are made. Peace testimony, or testimony against war, is a shorthand description of the action generally taken by members of the Religious Society of Friends for peace and against participation in war. For us it is not so important when the perfect world will be achieved or what it will be like. I concluded that it must be the way to take for me and for Japan who had heart-rending experiences of defeat in war and of two nuclear disasters. And they don’t believe that of everyone they meet. The peace testimony is about deeds not creeds; not a form of words but a way of living. We may disagree with the views and actions of the politician or the soldier who opts for a military solution, but we still respect and cherish the person. We are to live now ‘as if’ the Kingdom of God were already fulfilled. But this communion with God can be achieved by all men. Most relief work begins with some obvious need. All forms of non-violent resistance are certainly much better than appeasement, which has come to mean the avoidance of violence by a surrender to injustice at the expense of the sufferings of others and not of one’s self, by the giving away of something that is not ours to give. If there is nobody to arbitrate, then the ‘strongest’ will ‘win’ and the ‘weaker’ will ‘lose’. Hence the right sharing of the world’s resources is central to our thinking…, [We envision] a non-threatening Europe, committed to the non-violent resolution of conflict. May God steady me, and keep me faithful to a call I have heard above the roar of the guns. Affirming the personal value of each individual, encouraging mutual respect and consciously developing the skills and attitudes involved in creative conflict resolution must be regarded as an important educational priority. It’s messy, muddly and sometimes painful – but the other way, the search for some kind of mechanical invulnerability, for some kind of scientific guarantee against physical death, that way I am sure lies the death of the Spirit. In 1871 the Friends War Victims Relief Committee was formed to help those whose homes and livelihood had been devastated in the Franco-Prussian war. I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place. We are not passive when threatened by the greedy, the cruel, the tyrant, the unjust. As Quakers we are committed to peace, but we cannot eliminate conflict. However, I pled guilty to the charges because had I done otherwise I would have been guilty of far greater crimes against my conscience and against humanity. I believe, with the strength of my whole being, that standing here I am enlisted in active service as a soldier of Jesus Christ, who bids every man be true to the sense of duty that is laid upon his soul. The action of withholding the military proportion of our taxes arose for us from our corporately held testimony that ‘the Spirit of Christ, which leads us into all truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world’. Issued by London Yearly Meeting 1943, during the Second World War: All thoughtful men and women are torn at heart by the present situation. I told [the Commonwealth Commissioners] I lived in the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars… I told them I was come into the covenant of peace which was before wars and strife were. At the international level we affirm our support of Friends World Committee for Consultation and other bodies in ensuring that the standards and ideals of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights are attained, that the world does not slip backwards. We find it in the doctrine of the indwelling Christ, that re-discovery of the early Friends, leading as it does to a recognition of the brotherhood of all men. Because Quakers believe that there is that of God in all people to which others may respond, they not only hope for the best but they expect the best, believing that bad situations are likely to get better with the input of a little honest goodwill. We must search for a positive, vital, constructive message. At the same time it made a submission to the European Commission of Human Rights on the grounds of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; in July 1986 the Commission ruled the case inadmissible. Abstract: This paper looks at the Peace Testimony of Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends) and argues that, although Quakerism is commonly seen as pacifist (in some sense of that term) by many both within and without the Society, the Peace Testimony is best seen as not pacifist. We have thought of the widespread exploitation of economically under-developed peoples, and of those industrial and other workers who are also exploited and heavily burdened. All too often, the question put to us by politics cannot be answered in any other way. Background to the declaration to Charles II 6. If we are to face these issues aright we are called to re-examine our whole way of life. George Fox on "Keeping Watch," 1676. Women waiting, watching, just being there, behaving as if peace were possible, living our dream of the future now. I chose to create the dream of another way. The Peace Testimony is, however, more than a mere refusal to participate in war. For Quakers, an important part of the Peace Testimony is the seeking of justice for all people all over the world. Then in 1979 I acquired considerable wealth, and immediately I was faced inescapably with the Christian challenge to repay as much as possible of the wealth which Britain had taken from the world’s poor. The Peace Testimony has led many (though not all) Quakers to refuse to bear arms or to play any part in military action. It means relating our hopes for disarmament, our hopefulness, to the Christian understanding of hope, which is something much more profound. The debate over the peace testimony still touched relatively few Quakers and, as yet, only slightly impacted the larger society. To decide to do nothing is still a decision, and it means that you remain on the station platform or the airstrip when the train or plane has left. We had been talking for an hour and a half with a clergyman neighbour, and afterwards I sat by the fire and thought. For my part I reply that I would never presume to criticise people caught up in a situation I do not share with them for the way in which they are responding to that situation. It’s about ending oppression in all forms, both blatant and the more subtle. In speaking out, we acknowledge that we ourselves are as limited and as erring as anyone else. It is part of our daily experience, both directly and through television and other news media. Now we must act; take new and revolutionary action at the level of our personal responsibility to give back to the world’s poor the wealth of which we have robbed them and are still robbing them. (Is 2:4; Mic 4:3), Margaret Fell’s earlier expression of these ideas may be found at 19.46. And yet we could hurt no man that we believe loves us. We have sought to build institutions and relationships which make for peace and to resist military activity. Amazingly, we are now widely known as people who will not fight in wars. Where men have sinned as grievously and as long as we have done in our social and international relations with one another, there can be no easy end to the consequences… We could not engage in warlike activity in the hope of relieving the suffering of the Jews or of other oppressed peoples in Europe and Asia. War is hardening our hearts. If my actions were a crime, then I am guilty. It is important that we continue to resist that temptation. However, these often contradict each other and the pressures from friends and peer groups can work against the ‘official’ ways of handling conflict. Looking back and realising how very easily things might have gone the other way the only explanation which both Joyce and I can see is that it is a miracle of God, helped by the prayers and loving thoughts of my friends. We know the choice – we’ve known it all along – and we make it every day… ‘I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. After the first wave of enthusiasm had spent itself, the Society of Friends settled and became organised. The idea of conscientious objection based on the philosophy of non-violence struck me and was proved to me to be fair, reasonable and Christian. We can help to ease the tensions and live within them in the right way if we fulfil simultaneously Christ’s two commandments – the commandment to love and the commandment to speak truth. We must literally not take too much thought for the morrow but throw ourselves whole-heartedly into the present. Conscientious objection is not a total repudiation of force; it is a refusal to surrender moral responsibility for one’s action. Yet to attain peace it is claimed that, as Chungking, Rotterdam and Coventry were devastated, so the Eder and Moehne dams must needs be destroyed and whole districts of Hamburg obliterated. It found expression in more formal and reasoned statements as well as in the vivid personal witness of Friends. This beautiful, delicate world in all its infinite wonder is threatened with extinction. His fearlessness, however, flows from his communion with God. Quakers' original refusal to bear arms has been broadened to embrace protests and demonstrations in opposition to government policie… Conflict is a part of life, a necessary result of the varying needs, aims and perspectives of individuals and communities. Yet there were individual Friends who wished to make a sacrificial witness. The only true safety is the safety of all, and unless your weapon of defence achieves this work, or works towards this, it is a source of antagonism and therefore of increased peril. When you have to make a vital decision about behaviour, you cannot sit on the fence. [Our] understanding of the nature of the development process has altered. This situation demands sweeping political and economic changes; and we are convinced that the hope of freedom does not lie in violence, which is at its root immoral, but in such changes as may be brought about by fellowship and mutual service. We believe further that, as all church history shows, the human means will be the faithful witness borne by Christ’s disciples. Action has taken various forms and has included public protest, the relief of suffering, reconstruction and the removal of the causes of war through mediation, reconciliation, disarmament, building the institutions of peace, promoting social justice, and getting at the roots of conflict and violence in our personal behaviour. I felt the need to be faithful to truth instead of relying on existing judgment. The 1% Fund, established by London Yearly Meeting in 1968, operated for just over twenty years. That spirit of Christ by which we are guided is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil, and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ which leads us into all Truth will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world. Their use is a denial of the true laws of good living. The savage momentum of war drags us all in its wake. Peace testimony, or testimony against war, is a shorthand description of the action generally taken by members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) for peace and against participation in war. We are reminded graphically of violations of human rights far away and near at hand. One of the committee in a pert manner observed, ‘Then your principles are passive obedience and non-resistance.’ I replied, ‘No, my friend, our principles are active obedience or passive suffering.’, Our conviction is that Christianity has this to say to the world: ‘Your reliance upon armaments is both wrong and futile. Not all Quakers embrace this testimony as an absolute; for example, there were Friends that fought in World War I and World War II. To place the emphasis instead on hope, and the positive achievements we associate with disarmament, does not mean embracing a shallow optimism. As this spirit grows within us, we shall realise increasingly what it is to live in the virtue of that life and power which takes away the occasion of all wars. The personal responsibility which we hand over to governments, trade unions, committees and churches has failed to banish world poverty. Despite the gruelling time they had given the applicants in the morning, they gave me a very kind hearing. She was adopted and brought to Scotland to take her away from the unspeakable horror of the Vietnam war. It seems important to me to get the understanding of judges so that they will give serious consideration to our point of view and might eventually influence a change in the law, though they always say that is not their business. Then the inward eye is opened and we see humanity standing above all nations, more humble, more patient and far more enduring than all the kingdoms of this earth. The peace testimony, the testimony against war, is the truth as Quakers have understood it. Wars will stop only when each of us is convinced that war is never the way. The emphasis on personal action, which in the case of war means abstention, inevitably raises the problem of where one draws the line. We have only one world, and our present wasteful consumption of non-renewable resources and damage to the biosphere must stop. From an early age, people are led to think that conflicts should be settled by someone in authority: the parent, the teacher, the headteacher, the gangleader, the policeman, the judge, the boss, the president. The following extracts are taken from an address in 1958 entitled ‘Christians in a divided world’ by Margarethe Lachmund, a German Friend who had intimate knowledge of conditions in both East and West Germany. The Quaker Peace Testimony is the testimony most frequently associated with Quakers. It also contained no prohibition against paying taxes for purposes of war, something that would trouble Friends to the present. If all that I have done is to bring her closer to the nuclear holocaust, I stand convicted by her of the most cynical inhumanity. When the power of the Gospel spreads over the whole earth, thus shall it be throughout the earth, and, where the power of the Spirit takes hold of and overcomes any heart at present, thus will it be at present with that heart. yesterday. ‘Why do you come here? Traditionally, little encouragement has been given to young people to take responsibility for resolving conflicts, to look for ‘win-win’ solutions. The peace testimony also means working for forgiveness and reconciliation and living in a sense of our shared humanity. That is the call I hear. The peace testimony, today, is seen in what we do, severally and together, with our lives. I acted also with the authority of the nameless millions dying of starvation now because we choose to spend £11.5 billion on Trident whilst a child dies every 15 seconds. In offering some suggestions Not only is it an inappropriate and impossible model for others to follow, it is itself responsible for exacerbating many of the problems it purports to solve. The Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group invites you to join with us, and other Quakers across the country, in reading and getting to know our current Book of Discipline. I have often been asked how we handle the fact that peacemaking involves having a relationship, often a close relationship, with people who are committed to violent solutions to their problems. The ethos of the home, school or workplace will provide some rules (spoken and unspoken) for handling conflict situations. In 1925, the following questions were included in a section of our book of discipline on the League of Nations as showing some of the tests by which Friends might judge the League and its actions. I could not hesitate which to choose, and therefore denied the applicant. Now, friends, seeing these things cannot be controverted, how do we long that your whole conversation be as becometh the Gospel; and that while any of us are professing to scruple war, they may not in some parts of their conduct be inconsistent with that profession! The European economy should take positive account of the economies of other countries and not exploit their weaknesses. And so, out of love, love of my god-daughter, love of my world, I had to act. Where conflicts arise, we can seek a nonviolent resolution by working for reconciliation…. Quakers in Aotearoa (New Zealand) 1987. Peace is seen by Quakers as far more than a rejection of warfare. A relief organisation, then, ought to be a corporate body capable of both commonsense and imaginative action, combined with a natural ability to convey to others a sense of inner peace and stability, surviving outward chaos and yet not divorced from it. Christ was crucified; Gandhi was assassinated. Governments, trade unions, politicians and churches have talked loud and long about justice and the brotherhood of mankind. The courage for clarity and the strength to stand up for truth are repeatedly demanded of us. Many conscientious objectorshave undertaken alternative forms of service during wartime, and others have been imprisoned. Children in Quaker schools are taught the skills of non-violent conflict resolution. Whoever can reconcile this, ‘Resist not evil’, with ‘Resist violence by force’, again, ‘Give also thy other cheek’, with ‘Strike again’; also ‘Love thine enemies’, with ‘Spoil them, make a prey of them, pursue them with fire and the sword’, or, ‘Pray for those that persecute you, and those that calumniate you’, with ‘Persecute them by fines, imprisonments and death itself’, whoever, I say, can find a means to reconcile these things may be supposed also to have found a way to reconcile God with the Devil, Christ with Antichrist, Light with Darkness, and good with evil. Take your favorite fandoms with you and never miss a beat. Working for peace Some refused to pay taxes. See also chapter 25 Unity of creation & 23.53–23.70 Work and economic affairs. In March 1982 Meeting for Sufferings considered the request by some London Yearly Meeting employees that the part of their income tax attributable to military purposes should be diverted to non-military uses. More Gardner Documentary Group Films Lost Child ~ Sayon’s Journey Is it bringing the light of day into places of deceit and corruption? We must not try to find acceptance for our own solution to the conflict, but rather act as the ground in which, with our help, others can work out their answers. The blood of the Christians proved a fruitful seed. The Peace Testimony is largely derived from the teachings of Jesus to love one's enemies and Friends' belief in the inner light. It is an active expression of our understanding of … In discussing the problem of Communism for Christians, she could truly state ‘I therefore do not speak on this subject theoretically, but from insight gained through personal experience and personal contact with people and conditions on both sides’: Is Christianity capable of contributing to the overcoming of tensions and showing a way to their solution? It costs far more to spend mind and spirit, if need be, in the silence of a prison cell, in passionate witness for the great truths of Peace. Early Quakers had testimonies against outward symbols, taking oaths and the payment of tithes, and about peace, temperance, moderation and forms of address. From its beginnings in mid-seventeenth century England, members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have upheld a peace testimony.This witness was a logical consequence of early Quakers' belief that there is an absolute and unreconcilable contradiction between the making of war and the "spirit and doctrine of Christ." The kingdoms of the Lord? The first Friends had an apocalyptic vision of the world transformed by Christ and they set about to make it come true. Compulsory military service was introduced during the two World Wars and Friends, among others, appeared before tribunals to justify their stand as conscientious objectors. Not all Quakers embrace this testimony as an absolute; for example, there were Friends that fought in World War I and World War II. It will remain a stumbling block and will itself cause conflict and disagreement. As members of the Society of Friends we must ask the same question about the resources of our Society: as members of a nation and of the community of nations we must be alive to the fact that ours is among the richer countries of the world, yet devotes but a small fraction of the national income to help the less developed countries. All who adopt the petition, ‘Thy kingdom come’, pray for its universal establishment. I was asked to be at the Tribunal in Manchester by 11 am on Tuesday, i.e. That would be for me no sacrifice. None of us, no nation, no citizen, is free from some responsibility for this situation with its conflicting difficulties. Quaker approaches to disarmament have largely avoided the temptation to appeal to fear. The Christians who tell us that politics are irrelevant to morals are on surer ground, since Christian hope is not founded upon political peace; if it were it could never have survived the 2,000 years of wrong which it has had to endure since it was first proclaimed. Though rejecting on principle the provisions for coercion incorporated in the charter [of the United Nations], we must support the present organisation, the only peaceful meeting place for West and East, in its positive work of negotiation and functional co-operation, knowing well how imperfect and provisional its machinery still is. My charge is that I entered a protected area without authority or permission. If it is spoken with contempt, bitterness or hatred, it results in bitterness; if, however, truth is spoken in love, the door to the other’s heart can slowly open so that the truth can perhaps have some effect…. This is the ultimate justification for our peace-making. The Quakers' original refusal to bear arms has been broadened to embrace protests and demonstrations in opposition to government policies of war and confrontations with others who bear arms, whatever the reason, in the support of peace. Jesus knows no fear, nothing holds him apart from other people. It made a great noise in the country, and my life was threatened. In place of a process which trusts technology and mistrusts humanity, we must learn and live out a process that builds trust between people and their institutions… From the earliest days of Friends, we have known that safety cannot be defended in our own strength, but only in God’s… And we don’t have to do it with tools of our own fashioning, ever more elaborate technological juggling acts, ever more devastatingly destructive bombs… [We can] learn to lay down carnal weapons, practising with weapons of the spirit: love, truthsaying, nonviolence, the good news of God’s birth and rebirth among us, imagination, vision, and laughter. In any particular situation, a variety of personal decisions could be made with integrity. Compared with an Indian or African peasant, our pensioner is princely rich. 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