NFPB meeting on 1st March : Our first meeting of the year saw nearly forty Friends gathered at Huddersfield Meeting House at the beginning of March. Friends’ spirits seemed boosted by the friendly welcome and early spring sunshine, whilst on the international stage we were very conscious of the growing tensions following Russia’s movement of troops into Crimea. On that issue we agreed to write to the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, calling for the UK to use diplomatic means to help de-escalate the conflict and to contribute to a peaceful outcome. We also agreed to write to the embassies of Russia and Ukraine.
International tensions a century earlier were in our minds already, with the build-up of media activity to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war. With much of the coverage portraying a public that was almost wholly in support of the approach by the UK establishment to the war in 1914, our speaker in the afternoon of gave a glimpse into a very different set of stories. Having started his research into the subject in Huddersfield, historian Cyril Pearce has studied in detail the nature and range of anti-war activity during the first world war. Whilst conscientious objectors were the most visible manifestation of this, Cyril Pearce talks of ‘communities of resistance’, with political and religious groups – Quakers notable amongst them – playing significant roles in providing the framework and impetus for challenging the mood of the country. Friends were interested to hear of the national database that Cyril has been compiling of CO’s, that will go online later in the year. A new edition of his book, Comrades in Conscience is to be published in May. After his talk, NFPB members and visiting Friends met in regional groups to gather suggestions for Quaker and other peace activity in relation the first world war. (See also http://nfpb.org.uk/WW1)
The Board as a community and as a place for continuing thinking and action for peace was celebrated when new and more long-standing members were given a chance to say a little about key bits of NFPB work in which they had been involved, either as NFPB members or through their other peace witness. Friends also shared news of current peace-related concerns around the north. Exchanging information and ideas is always an important component of our meetings. A number of Friends have been busy creating knitted sections for the Wool Against Weapons initiative, for example, which we celebrated with a photographic line-up in the Meeting House garden.
Looking to the future, we reflected in short workshops on how we can use the media to help communicate our concerns. We will return to this at a later stage. We also heard reports of other NFPB activity, including a consultation amongst Scottish and English members on peace-concerns in relation to the Scottish independence referendum later in the year. That vote and discussion surrounding it will be one of a number of opportunities ahead for promoting new ways of building global security ‘for the common good’. In the meantime, the forthcoming Global Day of Action on Military Spending will be a chance to link up with others in the UK and beyond in calling for a redirection of resources towards such things that would make a more lasting contribution to peace.