This weekend on 30th June Friends will gather at Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire for a Meeting for Worship, and to mark the start of our centenary Walk of Witness, Walking the Walk. The walk will link two sites that reflect the continuity of active concern and witness expressed throughout our history, from the imprisonment of conscientious objectors to the military infrastructure and policies that shape the UK’s relationship with the rest of the world today.
Northern Friends Peace Board has its origins in a concern amongst Quakers in the North about growing international tensions and pressures towards conscription. They set up the Board 1913 to provide a Quaker voice for peace, wanting to work with Quakers and others in promoting ‘peace in all its height and breadth’. NFPB from the outset published literature, organised speakers and events and supported individuals and Quaker groups in taking wide-ranging action for peace. From 1916, much of this support was directed at men facing conscription to military service. NFPB provided advice on options available and spiritual and practical support to individuals (and their families) who took a conscientious stand against being conscripted into serving in the army. NFPB’s work included visiting those who were imprisoned for their beliefs, such as the men in Richmond Castle. The story of the Richmond Sixteen is a powerful one that provides a focus for the first day of our walk, on Sunday 30th June.
After the first world war
As well as again supporting conscientious objectors during the second world war, NFPB has been active continuously over the 100 years, with members from throughout the north of Britain and always at least one full-time worker. We still publish, much of this now using modern media, arrange conferences and other events and support Northern Quakers in undertaking peace activities in their own area.
A fuller account of our history can be read in the historical booklet published for our centenary year.
Issues we currently address in our work include
- promoting peace in diverse communities.
- security based on economic justice and sustainability rather than military might.
- the need to move away from weapons systems such as Trident nuclear weapons and drones.
Our walk ends at Menwith Hill . For many years, Quakers have regularly held a Meeting for Worship outside the base, concerned about its links with US Missile Defence and other aspects of the US/UK military infrastructure. Being run by the NSA, this a particular point of concern to many British people and of current relevance in relation to revelations about UK and US surveillance of communications. Walkers will arrive at Menwith Hill on the evening of 4th July, joining others gathering for the annual ‘Independence from America’ demonstration, organised by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases .
Throughout the walk, participants will use their time together to reflect on different aspects of Quaker peace concern. The cumulative legacy of faithful witness and loving action for peace by Quakers before us is one which inspires and motivates us still and is still unfolding.
Details of the route and timetable