At our final meeting of 2014, Northern Friends Peace Board members gathered at Newcastle upon Tyne Quaker Meeting House. A well attended meeting was joined by three young men from the Ukraine, who were all gaining experience in community work with children in the East end of Newcastle. They talked about some of the underlying causes of the protests that led to the continuing violent conflict in their home country, mentioning their own experiences of unemployment and corruption as well as participating in the demonstrations a year ago in Kiev.
NFPB members reflected on possible routes forward out of Ukraine conflict. The role of international bodies such as OSCE and the importance of building civil society skills and structures were both emphasised. We heard of the hope, vision and mutual commitment that sustained the original protests, whilst also reflecting on the problems of media manipulation in fuelling the conflict.
Change at different levels also featured in a number of other shorter presentations during the day. The Newcastle Conflict Resolution Network , currently reviewing its progress after six years, promotes a range of activities and events to promote conflict handling skills in the community. We considered with them some of the seeds of violence in our own communities and ways in which small Quaker projects might address these.
At a national level, the QPSW Turning the Tide programme is now in its 20th year and is looking to develop ways of providing continuing support for groups working for nonviolent change, beyond the one-off training events that have been the staple of the programme’s work.
We concluded our meeting by hearing about the very successful Hexham Debates series of talks, which earlier this year completed their 7th series. Speakers from throughout the country have recognised the value of these events and been willing to travel, knowing that they will have a good audience and chance to contribute ideas to the continuing work towards peace and justice.
As with all of our end-of-year meetings, we said goodbye to Friends who have served on the Board for a number of years. Our first meeting in 2015 will be at the end of February in Leeds, to which we look forward to welcoming new representatives. The sharing of news, inspiration, information and Friendship continue to provide support to Friends and beyond; thank you to all who have helped to develop and sustain our work.