Quakers and Peace - a blog from Hannah Brock
This article by Hannah Brock was written for the German SCM magazine in Spring 2012. We thought you might like to read it!
Hannah is a Quaker from the Isle of Wight. Before serving in Bethlehem with EAPPI she has been working for peace and development charities in the UK.
She is a member of the community for young Quakers (18 - 30ish), Young Friends General Meeting, and is inspired by the saying of William Penn, ''Let us then see what love can do'.
Quakers and Peace
“So, what do Quakers actually believe?” is a question often asked. The response is complicated! Quakers have no creed; we share a way of life and an approach to spirituality, based on what we call ‘testimonies’. Testimonies are our witness to the world of our experience of God. The most prominent of these are Simplicity, Truth, Equality and Peace. And perhaps the best known of these is Peace.
Unlike other testimonies, the peace testimony is also a form of words, written in 1651. The introduction reads: ‘All bloody principles and practices, we...do utterly deny.¬’ Another early proclamation influential to many Friends is George Fox’s (one of the earliest Quakers) hope that we look for ‘that of God’ in everyone. We are all equally valuable, with ‘that of God’ within us. Therefore how can we justify harming another person?
A strict devotion to pacifism is not shared by all Quakers today, but we still strive for peace in our local and global communities, and in our personal lives. Nonviolence is central to many Quakers’ understanding of the teaching of Jesus. Our corporate experience has led us to work for peace in many different areas – all prompted by the same spiritual truths.
‘Peace’ means building a just world in which conflicts are handled non-violently, and structural, cultural, emotional and physical violence is challenged, and those who suffer are salved. Thus, Quakers have been influential ¬in supporting causes including prison reform and the abolition of slavery, as well as more obvious ‘peace’ causes such as campaigns for disarmament and for the rights of conscientious objectors.
I write from Bethlehem, where I am working as a human rights witness with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), an initiative of the World Council of Churches. As I work here, the understanding that there is ‘that of God’ in everyone is constantly on my mind.
This insight reminds me of the call from Matthew to “seek ye first the kingdom of God.” It asks me to look immediately for that of God - to look for the light - in every person and circumstance, however hard this seems. To do other - to assume the worst - is an act of violence in my heart towards the other person. It’s quite a challenge! But I find it a useful spiritual practice when approaching soldiers.
As a Quaker, I sometimes feel like we are a quiet, lone voice working for peace. Whilst other denominations involve themselves in other worthwhile commitments such as poverty eradication or services for the homeless, it can seem like the pursuit of alternatives to violence falls to the bottom of their lists.
I am delighted, therefore, to be part of a programme, in EAPPI, which brings together people of many different Christian traditions, from 21 countries, to work for a just peace in the ‘Holy Land’. It gives me hope to find women and men of many faiths and none doing that which, to quote the 1651 declaration, ‘tends to the peace of All’. Find out more about the Quakers at www.quaker.org.uk and about EAPPI at www.eappi.org.