Friends General Conference

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Quakers Consider: Peace

Photo by Joya Manasseh
Quakers Consider...

Margaret Fell, 1660

We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love, and unity; it is our desire that others’ feet may walk in the same, and do deny and bear our testimony against all strife and wars and contentions. . . . Our weapons are not carnal, but spiritual.

Quakers in​ Aotearoa (New Zealand) 1987

We must start with our own hearts and minds. Wars will stop only when each of us is convinced that war is never the way. The places to begin acquiring the skills and maturity and generosity to avoid or to resolve conflicts are in our own homes, our personal relationships, our schools, our workplaces, and wherever decisions are made.

We must relinquish the desire to own other people, to have power over them, and to force our views on to them. We must own up to our own negative side and not look for scapegoats to blame, punish or exclude. We must resist the urge towards waste and the accumulation of possessions.

Ruth Watson, 199​7

Conflict generally has a negative connotation, but is this right?  It is my belief that early Friends throve on conflict; it brought out the best in them. . . .

In my adolescence I loved Whittier’s hymn “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind” and especially the lines “take from our souls the strain and stress and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.” On the other hand, because by genetic inheritance and childhood conditioning I am a thinker and doer, another hymn appealed to me.  This prays “not for ever by still waters would we idly rest and stay, but would strike the living fountain from the rocks along our way.” Conflict indeed, but a healthy diversity of ideas which challenged me to find the balanced path.

William Oats, 199​0

We need to have a much deeper concept of peace than the negative assumption that it is simply the absence of war.  Peace is an organic concept, living and creative, and concerned with the relationships between people and between groups of people.  . . .

The biggest threat to the future of humanity is not the atomic bomb, but the provincial mind, the limited outlook, the myopia which prevents us from seeing beyond our own immediate interests.  We can be provincial and myopic, especially, in our attitudes to people who are different from ourselves in color, in religious creed, in political affiliation, in educational opportunities, in abilities.  Acceptance of others is not merely tolerating others.  It is an affirmation of the importance of variety and difference.

Mary Lord, 20​02

It is not our Quakerism, or our pacifism, or our knowledge, or skill, or emotion that overcomes hate and violence.  We shall surely fail if we become proud of our virtue and traditions and become vain in our witness.  We shall fail if we think the power that may move through us is our own.  The power is not ours, it is God’s.  This is the foundation of what we must do in our testimony of peace in this time of war.  The foundation is faith in the power of God’s love to transform us and our society and to bring justice to the poor and oppressed.  Our task is to act, as best we understand what we are led to do, in obedience to that power.


Quaker Trivia

Quakers are the only religion so far to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.  It was awarded to Friends worldwide in 1947, recognizing three centuries of Quaker efforts to heal rifts and oppose war, and especially recognizing Quaker relief work in Europe following the two world wars.  Representatives of American Friends Service Committee and British Friends Service Council accepted the prize on behalf of all Friends.