Letters - 08 March 2024

From Quakers listening to Biblical Literature Festival

Quakers listening

I really appreciated Kate Graham’s article (16 February) on mini clearness committees. I’d love to know how/where she found them. It always heartens me when I hear of Quaker processes being used and valued in the world outside Quakers.

I was part of an action learning set for a while, also based on clearness committees, and widely used in organisations including the NHS. The process requires listening with care and curiosity, such vital skills that the world needs so much. I was the only Quaker there and felt proud of our heritage.

While doing the Woodbrooke ‘Equipping for Ministry’ course, I came across the practice of holding one another in the Light, developed by US Friend Marcelle Martin. This felt to me like a form of worship sharing in small groups, focusing the Light on one person in turn. It was a deep kind of listening, a sacred space.

These practices seem very precious to me and I’d be interested to know if others are involved in them and whether they could work on Zoom; I’d like to try.

Maureen Rowcliffe-Quarry

Building peace

Roger Sturge (9 February) rightly challenges us to consider how a pacifist should respond to the conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine.

I would like to remind him that the practical expression of our Peace Testimony, as described in Quaker faith & practice, includes relief of suffering, reconciliation and mediation.

Of course we can be sympathetic to the suffering of those involved in war on both sides, but in order to be effective in peacebuilding it is important that we do not take sides.

The experience of UK intervention in recent conflicts has been that, when we take sides, it simply encourages others to take the opposing side and the consequence has been the opposite of what we wish for. I fear that this is true of the current conflicts.

The requirements for building peace are that we encourage the protagonists to understand their opponents’ point of view and search for outcomes which can be acceptable to both parties. Of course this will be easier if it happens before military action is initiated.

The tragedy of Ukraine/Russia and Israel/Palestine is that opportunities to find peaceful solutions have been missed by both parties and their supporters, which includes the UK government.

We need to say to our government that resolution of conflict by military means has proved to be ineffective and it should put our resources into peacebuilding through the good offices of the United Nations.

As Linda Murgatroyd says (16 February) this may require a transformation in relationships between the opposing parties. All parties need to recognise that building peace is in the long-term interests of everyone.

Trevor Evans

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