Thirty Board members were joined and made welcome by about half a dozen Darlington Friends for our first NFPB meeting of the year, with Friends present from Perth in Scotland and Nottingham in the south of the Board’s area and Meetings in between. Some Friends were with us for their first Board meeting and in our worship we remembered past Board members who had died since our last Meeting.
Project activities: After an introduction to and a chance to introduce ourselves to one another, there were reports on three particular areas of the Board’s current work.
a) Building Peace in Diverse Britain. The project group is planning a day exploring the nature and learning the skills of dialogue, drawing on the expertise of other organisations who have developed particular approaches. Details of this will be publicised as soon as they are confirmed. The group is also at the early stages of developing an event – or events – focussing on how young people can be supported in addressing these concerns.
b) Centenary. A working group is preparing for a range of resources and activities relating to our centenary year in 2013. We recognise that the year will also be in the lead up to the centenary of the first world war, which Quakers and other will be marking. The group has applied and is applying for additional funding for this work and is greatly encouraged to have already received contributions from individual Friends specifically for this purpose.
c) Promoting Sustainable Security. The group was busy during 2011, much of their activity being in collaboration with other Quaker groups. Reviewing these activities, the group wants to highlight in its work the relationship of peace to underlying economic and environmental issues, looking at how communities respond and how we bring all our testimonies to inform our Quaker response.
Finance: Additional legacy income and project funding was important last year, with a reduction in levels of support from some Area and Local Meetings. A fundraising group is working to develop other sources of funding and to encourage Board members in contributing to this effort. The guideline figure for contributions from AMs in 2012 is £7.50 per member.
Challenging Militarism: In groups, we considered the opportunities that the Global Day of Action of Military Spending (17th April) might present, alongside the challenges of Armed Forces Day, taking place on 29th June. A number of suggestions arose and some of these will be circulated and made available via our website.
Current issues of concern
NFPB letter-writing: The Board has written to the Government about the growing danger of military action against Iran, and is drafting a letter on drones (unmanned aerial vehicles). We reflected on the deepening crisis in Syria and expressed the hope that we might find a way of communicating our desire for nonviolent ways of resolving the crisis.
Members’ concerns: In our usual forum session, Friends reported on a range of peace activities and concerns in their areas, along with information about useful sources of information on current issues, past and forthcoming events, from nonviolence training to a Quaker contribution to a flower show.
Gabriel Carlyle, activist from Justice not Vengeance and writer from Peace News, joined us for the afternoon session. His colleague Maya Evans had been due to speak to us about her recent participation in a peace delegation to Afghanistan, but was prevented from doing so by a short prison sentence for her involvement in an earlier nonviolent protest relating to that military conflict. Gabriel was able to pass on details and reflections from the peace delegation and gave Friends valuable input on the nature of the war, on possible ways forward and on actions that people can take. His commitment and knowledge of the issues, and his willingness to step in at short notice on Maya’s behalf, were all appreciated.