Searching for our Peace Testimony

Colchester Friends engage with peace and conflict

Colchester Quakers have continued their search for practical methods of peacebuilding and resolving conflict with a series of five discussions through the winter. On 12 May a major public meeting in the town’s magnificent Moot Hall was to be held under the banner: ‘The Cost of Conflict – a new look at investing in peace.’

Through this long cold winter Friends and others have been attending talks as varied as ‘Working alongside victims of conflict and ethnic violence’ (in Rwanda), given by Laura Shipler Chico of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, and ‘Building a Culture of Peace’ by Bruce Kent. The middle of this heady sandwich was filled with talks on resettling refugees in southern Sudan, developing micro-credit in parts of Africa with Jennifer Kavanagh and learning from impressive young people from Newham about their Truce 20/20 initiative, as they build up to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Local Friends have accepted that it is not enough to proclaim a peaceful approach to life, politics and community affairs: our peace testimony has to be one of action, commitment and questioning. Living, as we do, in a garrison town with many young people on active service in Afghanistan – and before that in Iraq or with peace missions in Sierra Leone – we are mindful of the anxiety within the military community. In proclaiming our peace testimony we were eager to demonstrate that ours was not a passive approach, but rather one of support for those who work in the field and who support local people to breed peace within their neighbourhoods at home and overseas.

The winter series of varied talks has drawn large numbers to the Meeting house; refreshments afterwards led to lively discussions across the generations. The small organising group within Colchester Friends felt it was important to conclude this initiative with a significant public meeting, on the lines of a similar gathering, when local Friends celebrated a 350-year Quaker presence in the town. This time we have been fortunate that Martin Bell, Patrick Cordingley and Paul Rogers agreed to form a panel; with questions put by younger Friends. Professor Rogers will speak on the the importance of energy, water and food security, and the way these vital elements of life are often the cause of conflict.

May 2010 is a time of change within our country. The new government needs to reformulate major aspects of our national life. Quakers are eager to ensure that their testimonies are upheld and developed. By raising their public voice in recent months Colchester Quakers are asking to be heard and for their views to be considered.

In 1943 London Yearly Meeting declared: “All thoughtful men and women are torn at the heart by the present situation. The savage momentum of war drags us all in its wake. We desire a righteous peace… But true peace cannot be dictated, it can only be built in co-operation between all peoples. None of us, no nation, no citizen, is free from some responsibility for this situation with its conflicting difficulties.”

We owe it to future generations to work with determination to build a culture of peace.


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