. . . be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations, wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one.
George Fox: Letter for Ministers from Launceston Jail, 1656
The text of the whole letter can be found at paragraph 19.32 in Quaker Faith & practice online
To the Editor of The Friend, Ian Kirk-Smith
The British Army
Our local Meeting has received a curious letter from Army Engagement Team, inviting us to a presentation on the Army, claiming that the Her Majesty's Army is “your army” and implying that the talk can “give you a better understanding of what we do”.
Many of us have some understanding of what the Army has done and hope that it will improve on its former policy of shipping Quaker C.O.s to France to be shot as deserters and, more recently, torturing civilian prisoners in Iraq. It could do better in de-programming its soldiers, when they leave the service. It should avoid attempting to recruit school students, especially primary children!
Few of us will consider it to be valuable to attend the presentation on 19/02. It was said by a Friend who attended a similar event to be “it was a talk with pictures about how great the army was. It was very stage-managed and hard to ask tricky questions, but the buffet was good, and the wine was OK”.This seems to be part of a 4-year £40M project to implement “The Military Covenant” locally, with local authorities and civil society doing most of costly giving.
It would certainly be a benefit to open a dialogue with H.M. Forces and the War Office, if a open dialogue is possible. In the meantime, I expect that our response will be a polite refusal. We should, of course bear in mind Penington's 1661 view of the social role of “The Sword” in QFP 24.21.
Vernon White Come to Good Meeting, Cornwall
Peace is a process:
in The Friend 10 01 2013
Helen Drewery reflected on peace in her ‘Thought for the Day’, which was broadcast on 31 December 2012 on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme
Good morning. Two incidents of horrific violence have shocked us all in recent days: the church organist killed in Sheffield on his way to Midnight Mass, and the medical student in Delhi whose funeral was held yesterday. In the light of those I want to tell you two different stories about ordinary people’s successful efforts to counteract violence.
A young woman in Year 9 at school – about fourteen years old – was walking home through a park at dusk and saw a group of Year 10 students she recognised from her own school standing in a circle. As she got nearer she could see that one of them was holding down and punching someone from her year group. He was being hit in the face repeatedly. The crowd was jeering. The young woman was terrified but walked into the centre of the circle and just said ‘stop doing that’, and to her amazement they did, and she was able to take the boy back to his home.
But peace does not just require personal courage. It can be organised for. My second example is set in Kenya. Local Quakers there, learning from past experience, were determined to be well prepared to limit the predicted violence around the coming general elections. So they invited in a British Quaker project to give them training in skills of active nonviolence, helping people to see that real political change can be achieved by peaceful means. Already they have launched a campaign to challenge unfair local taxes. The alternative might easily have been a violent riot.
As we turn to face the new year, maybe bracing ourselves for more conflicts and challenges, we need a sense of hope. I try to remember all the countries and communities which don’t feature in the news headlines, because ordinary people are busy keeping the peace. And many feel supported by their faith to do more than they could have done in just their own human strength.
Who knows what violence has been prevented, at an early stage, by the unknown actions of ordinary people? A century ago there were people working to prevent the outbreak of world war one. They failed – but failure is not inevitable. Wars that have been prevented have no names and no dates – documentaries are rarely made about them.
So what would it take for us to be peacemakers, in the coming year? I suggest it takes, mostly, a willingness to build trust, and some skills in cool-headedness, which can be learnt by anybody. And many people find that it really helps to see every human being as unique, precious and a child of God.
It has been said: ‘there is no way to peace – peace is the way.’ Or as Sydney Bailey, a Quaker who worked at the United Nations, put it: ‘peace is a process to engage in, not a goal to be reached’.
Helen is general secretary of Quaker Peace & Social Witness.
To listen to Helen reading her Thought for the Day, please visit www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0138d57
Israel : arms exports from UK
Letter from George Eustice MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle to a Constituent, dated 17 December 2012
Dear Mr White [Hand-written]
Thank you for contacting me about British defence exports to Israel.
I appreciate your concern with this issue, especially in light of the recent events in Southern Israel and Gaza. I welcomed the agreement reached on 21 November 2012 to end the hostilities.
Our Government was clear in its view throughout the conflict that Hamas was principally responsible for the crisis and that the quickest way to end the situation would have been for it to stop the launching of rockets from Gaza at Israel. It is not tolerable for any population to live under such a threat for such an extended period.
However, the Government did recognise that there are also responsibilities on Israel. That is why it urged the Israelis to do their utmost to reduce tension, to take every opportunity to de-escalate the situation, to observe international humanitarian law and to avoid civilian casualties.
The Government policy on the export of UK controlled military goods to all destinations is based on the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.
All export applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis, against the Consolidated Criteria, taking into account the circumstances at the time of the application and the stated end user and end use.
The criteria make clear that the Government will not approve the export of controlled military goods where there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression, or where it would provoke or prolong armed conflicts or aggravate existing tensions or conflicts in the country of final destination.
Israel has a legitimate right to self defence but Israel is no different to other states to which the UK exports in that transactions which would breach guidelines are not approved whilst items vital for Israel's external defence are allowed.
As long as these guidelines are fully adhered to, I believe it is right that we sell defence exports to our allies. Every country in the world has the right to defend itself.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
George Eustice MP
Quaker Peace Testimony recognised by SW MP
Sarah Newton, Conservative MP for Truro and Falmouth has posted an Early Day Motion marking the 350th anniversary of the Quaker Peace Testimony.
That this House recognises the 350th anniversary of the first written declaration of a Quaker commitment to peace;
notes the adherence of countless Quakers to this commitment over the centuries despite persecution and oppression;
remembers the service of Quakers in ambulance units in two world wars;
appreciates the contribution of Quakerism to efforts to engender world peace and avoid all forms of conflict;
and sends its best wishes to ongoing Quaker peace projects across the world.
This initiative comes from local Quakers and is a good example of what a local Meeting can do.
Early Day Motions (EDMs) are formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons.
However, very few are actually debated.
EDMs allow MPs to draw attention to an event or cause.
MPs register their support by signing individual motions.
At the end of a Parliamentary session, all EDMs are closed, including this one (Session 2010-2012), after 26 MPs had signed it.
Information about EDMs on the UK Parliament website: HERE
Friends might like to try to persuade their MP to sign Jeremy Corbyn's 2012-2013 session EDM 96:
That this House notes the findings of the National Security Strategy that a nuclear weapon threat from another state is of low likelihood;
further notes a procurement cost of 25 billion and an estimated lifetime cost of over 100 billion for the replacement of the Trident nuclear weapon system;
believes that there are greater spending priorities both at the Ministry of Defence and across other departments; and urges the Government to cancel plans to replace Trident.
(Andrew George, Stephen Gilbert, Dan Rogerson and Adrian Sanders, MPs from Devon & Cornwall, are among the 93 MPs who have already signed)
For further advice on working with the Westminster Parliament, see the Public Issues section of the Quakers in Britain website.
On Saturday 12 January, Michael Bartlet, our Parliamentary Liaison Officer, will speak to Quakers at St Austell Meeting House, starting at 10:30am.
Please see News Release on GAZA on the Quakers in Britain website:
and send a copy of the Quaker statement to your MP, with a covering letter.
Please let us know how they respond!
Find out about your Westminster MP
- Read debates they’ve taken part in, see how they voted, sign up for an email alert, and more: http://www.theyworkforyou.com/
- UK Parliament MP database http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
- Information about UK parliamentary constituencies and previous elections https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_Parliament_constituency
- Help writing to your MP https://www.writetothem.com/
Paths to Change
Alan Ray-Jones describes a meeting held in Exeter about economic systems, justice and the planet
In the UK the top one per cent own more property wealth than the other ninety-nine per cent in total. This was just one of the startling facts discussed at a recent gathering at Exeter Meeting House on 13 October focused on economics, justice and the planet.
Stewart Wallis, executive director of the New Economics Foundation, and Symon Hill, associate director of Ekklesia, a Christian and Quaker journalist, were the main speakers. Despite limited publicity, the Meeting house was full, with eighty-five to ninety attending, including non-Quakers.
Stewart described our current market system, based on usury, as morally bankrupt. It is unsustainable, unfair and unstable and does not provide wellbeing for most people on the planet. Up until forty years ago the planet could sustain its population, but no longer. Soon we’ll need three planets. Essential resources like topsoil, fish and minerals are dwindling rapidly.
Climate change is now, not in the future – Arctic sea ice is a quarter of what it was in 1980 and may vanish within five years, with unknown consequences. In India land distribution is grossly unfair for millions. In the Middle East joblessness is a huge problem: fifty million new jobs are needed. In the USA four hundred Americans have more wealth than the poorest one hundred and fifty million put together. Some countries have massive surpluses, others massive deficits. The banking system is as unstable as it was in 2007. Increasing efficiency is pointless if systems are inherently unsafe. More income doesn’t lead to increased happiness above a certain amount.
In short, we have a values crisis. But change is possible: unfortunately many politicians still think that markets are the answer to everything. We need a ‘Great Transition’. Stewart said that it only takes ten per cent of a population to effect change. Danny Dorling, in the Salter lecture at Yearly Meeting 2012, pointed out that the income level of many Quakers puts them in the nine per cent band immediately below the top one per cent; they are opinion formers and voters. We can’t sit on our hands, Friends!
Symon Hill was equally forthright. He pointed out that Christianity has a very mixed history, with many colluding with power and the status quo, but always with a radical element, too (remember Occupy, St Paul’s and Giles Fraser). Adults teach children to share their toys with others, but when he was six he noticed that adults didn’t share with their neighbours. He went to the Conservative Party conference and asked questions – he was told that some millionaires work hard to earn their money, but is that a virtue for an arms dealer? Don’t cleaners work hard too?
Quakers didn’t escape unscathed; we are apt to get too focused on our personal virtue. We don’t like taking sides, but, if an elephant is standing on the tail of a mouse, it is the elephant who will thank us for our neutrality.
Many Devon and Cornwall Quakers stayed on in the afternoon. We divided into groups. Mine was concerned with political lobbying. We discussed the possibility of getting together to write well-researched ‘standard letters’ to politicians that could be shared with other Friends to adapt and send to their MPs if they felt unable to start with a blank sheet. Other groups were concerned with building a new economy; with credit unions and the regeneration of the cooperative movement; with building alliances; and with forming local wellbeing services.
We thank the speakers; also Raymond Thomson, Gill Westcott, Gerald Conyngham and others who helped from Exeter Meeting; and Vernon White and the Devon and Cornwall arrangements committee,who sponsored the day.
Alan is a member of Devon Area Meeting. This report appeared in The Friend 26/10/2012
What is it about the Quakers?
Modern Friends sometimes hear, from people who know a bit about us, that we are 'good' people, whatever that may mean, while to the public at large we either died out years ago, or are a 'strict' sect. In fact we are pretty normal people but with a passion for silence, fellowship and peace.
In his book 'Light to Live By*', Rex Ambler describes the essence of the Quaker experience which developed around 1650:
"The meditative process was thought of as the basis for a whole way of life......... Truth had to be accessed through a discipline of silence and waiting, but once it had been 'seen' and accepted, it had to be acted on. Then more insight would be gained, and one's own life would become richer and more effective."
This process, of meditation followed by action, is still at work today, for example on the issue of sustainability. Friends decided collectively last year (see below), that the way we live must change now and it will, so that we can do our bit towards preventing the worst effects of climate change. Perhaps this will lead us to move right out of our comfort zone (literally), and develop in our lives the strength of vision which 17th Century Quakers had, and which some of them even died for.
*'Light to Live By: an exploration of Quaker spirituality', Rex Ambler, Quaker Books,
London 2008.See also NAYLER: The Living Vision,
Quakers and sustainability: what now?, and 'Experiment with Light'.
The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice
The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice was approved on 24 April 2012 at the
Sixth World Conference Friends, held at Kabarak University near Nakuru, Kenya. It
is the culmination of the FWCC World Consultation on Global Change which was held in 2010 and 2011. It is being circulated with the Conference Epistle.
In past times God’s Creation restored itself. Now humanity dominates, our growing population consuming more resources than nature can replace. We must change, we must become careful stewards of all life. Earthcare unites traditional Quaker testimonies: peace, equality, simplicity, love, integrity, and justice. Jesus said, “As you have done unto the least… you have done unto me”.
We are called to work for the peaceable Kingdom of God on the whole earth, in right sharing with all peoples. However few our numbers, we are called to be the salt that flavours and preserves, to be a light in the darkness of greed and destruction.
We have heard of the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro and glaciers of Bolivia, from which come life-giving waters. We have heard appeals from peoples of the Arctic, Asia and Pacific. We have heard of forests cut down, seasons disrupted, wildlife dying, of land hunger in Africa, of new diseases, droughts, floods, fires, famine and desperate migrations – this climatic chaos is now worsening. There are wars and rumors of war, job loss, inequality and violence. We fear our neighbors. We waste our children's heritage
All of these are driven by our dominant economic systems – by greed not need, by worship of the market, by Mammon and Caesar. Is this how Jesus showed us to live?
-We are called to see what love can do: to love our neighbor as ourselves, to aid the widow and orphan, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, to appeal to consciences and bind the wounds.
-We are called to teach our children right relationship, to live in harmony with each other and all living beings in the earth, waters and sky of our Creator, who asks, “Where were your when I laid the foundations of the world?” (Job 38:4)
-We are called to do justice to all and walk humbly with our God, to cooperate lovingly with all who share our hopes for the future of the earth.
-We are called to be patterns and examples in a 21st century campaign for peace and
ecojustice, as difficult and decisive as the 18th and 19th century drive to abolish slavery.
We dedicate ourselves to let the living waters flow through us – where we live, regionally,
and in wider world fellowship. We dedicate ourselves to building the peace that passeth all
understanding, to the repair of the world, opening our lives to the Light to guide us in each small step.
Bwana asifiwe. A pu Dios Awqui. Gracias Jesús. Jubilé. Salaam aleikum. Migwetch. Tikkun olam. Alleluia!
An innovative learning project which is available to all who are new to Friends - both individuals and groups, whether familiar with computers or not - who want to know more about Quakers.
It helps newcomers to understand more about Quakerism, while exploring their own spiritual journey, through the use of flexible learning materials, on-line discussion groups and support from a network of ‘companions’ in local meetings. It is however only an option, to use or not!
The Becoming Friends course is available both online and on paper. The book (paperback) 'Becoming Friends: Living and Learning with Quakers' costs £10 from the Quaker Bookshop. The online Becoming Friends course costs £5. A free demonstration of the course is also available (use guest login).
Meetings can support newcomers who are using the Becoming Friends materials, or want to do so, by sending a couple of Friends on a course for 'Becoming Friends Companions' at Woodbrooke or Swarthmore; or by sending newcomers to a 'Becoming Friends' course at Woodbrooke or Swarthmore; or by obtaining 'Becoming Friends: Preparing to be a Companion Handbook', which is available from the Quaker Bookshop, price £5. At least two Friends from Devon have been on a Becoming Friends Companions course: contact Alan Ray-Jones for further information.
"You must be the change you want to see in the world"Mahatma Ghandi.
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