From Fighting talk to Struggling
I welcome Don Rowe’s call (25 November) for a review of chapter 24 of Quaker faith & practice to take account of the reality of recent conflicts. I recollect that there was a call some years ago for a restatement of our Peace Testimony.
Since the UN was founded in 1945 there have been many initiatives to promote the peaceful resolution of conflicts, sometimes involving military forces.
Many soldiers have lost their lives in these missions and I have been pleased to commemorate this by attending our local service of remembrance on behalf of the United Nations Association.
Quaker faith & practice does include references to many different ways of expressing support for our Peace Testimony both by personal witness and by corporate action in the fields of relief of suffering, reconciliation, disarmament, and building the institutions of peace.
The dilemmas of the pacifist stand are also acknowledged, so I think that applicants for membership should not feel that absolute pacifism is a requirement for membership.
However, I do not think that the only practical response to Russian aggression against Ukraine was a military one. There were negotiations between the parties before the invasion, which failed, but I believe that a greater willingness by Ukraine and NATO to address Russian concerns, including the rights of Russian speakers in the East of Ukraine, could have produced an agreement.
Surely the consequences of this war for all parties have been far worse than the problems that caused it. This has also been true of many other recent conflicts, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria where attempts to resolve the conflict by military means have made it worse.
The major powers need to be more willing to put their resources into peacebuilding initiatives to address the causes of conflict.
This has been the emphasis of the peacebuilding work supported by Quaker Peace & Social Witness (QPSW), particularly in East Africa, and the QPSW strategy places a priority on peacebuilding based on the lessons learned from success there.
Our political leaders also need to learn these lessons.
Before Covid, our Meeting had a cash collection every Sunday. The last time I sponsored one (in fact for Quaker Council for European Affairs) we collected £200. Then we met by Zoom, now blended.
We have been asking Friends to make their own donation to whatever charity is chosen for each month. Thus we have no knowledge of how much is paid in, and I can’t believe that as many Friends contribute. Of course, handling the cash was clunky.
Our local Russian Orthodox church had collected £400 in cash, for Ukraine and not for Putin, but this (perhaps in misunderstanding) was stolen.
Now they have a contactless terminal, open to worshippers and visitors. I think it is frankly irresponsible of Friends not to go down the same road.
I gather that responsibility has to fall on Area Meetings because trusteeship is for them rather than Local Meetings. I gather also that Friends House has left the matter to AMs on the grounds that some may prefer different approaches. Surely it would help to have central advice, and perhaps centrally-negotiated terms and conditions, which individual Area Meetings could opt in or out of at will.
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