Letters - 08 December 2017

From Nobel Peace Prizes to linguistic genocide

Nobel Peace Prizes

In 1947 Friends Service Council of London Yearly Meeting (the precursor of Quaker Peace and Social Witness) and the American Friends Service Committee were joint winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Friends are, therefore, in a notable but rather motley group that includes Henry Kissinger, Menachem Begin, Aung San Suu Kyi and Barack Obama.

Rather more notably the group also includes Seán MacBride (the International Peace Bureau and Amnesty International), International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the International Red Cross (three times), Joseph Rotblat (for ‘efforts to diminish the part played by nuclear arms in international politics’), the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

This year the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) for ‘its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons’. Quakers and IPPNW are very much involved in the work of ICAN.

Perhaps, over the customary cups of tea that follow Meetings for Worship on Sunday 10 December, Friends could quietly raise their cups to ICAN and the Nobel Peace Prize Committee as, in most cases, while sipping their tea the aAward ceremony will be in full swing in Oslo, Norway.

Frank Boulton

God, words and us

On his visit to Myanmar pope Francis said: ‘Religious differences need not be a source of division, but a force for unity, forgiveness, tolerance…’

In the same spirit I believe God, words and us: Quakers in conversation about religious difference, edited by Helen Rowlands and published in November by Quaker Books (a copy of which, I’m told, has been sent to every Meeting in Britain) has the potential to make the same impact as Towards a Quaker View of Sex.

That essay, written in 1963 by a group of Friends and issued by the Friends Home Service, helped to shape the liberal, tolerant zeitgeist of the 1960s and eventually led to British Friends pioneering same-sex marriage.

The essay called for ‘a release of love, warmth and generosity… that will weaken our fear of one another… this search is a move forward into the unknown; it implies a high standard of responsibility, thinking and awareness – something much harder than simple obedience to a moral code.’

The group of Friends invited to join a ‘think tank’ set up by the Book of Discipline Revision Preparation Group in 2014, whose work resulted in God, words and us, explored ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’, showing us possible ways to reconcile the irreconcilable.

Who knows, it could also aid other churches and faith communities wrestling with similar dilemmas.

Laurie Andrews

You need to login to read subscriber-only content and/or comment on articles.