Gathering in the south of the NFPB area, Northern Friends Peace Board members were in Nottingham for their first members’ meeting of the year. The warmth of the welcome helped the day get off well, as Friends arrived from the North of Scotland, Lincolnshire, North Wales, Cumbria and all parts between (not forgetting two from London). We were pleased to be joined by several new Representatives, whilst also remembering former NFPB members who had recently died.
With Trident very much in the news, Friends shared experiences of their involvement in the previous weekend’s demonstration, heard of plans to promote the exploration of alternative production at Barrow in Furness and of other activities, from local to national level, in which Quakers are involved. NFPB will be hosting a special interest meeting on this concern during Britain Yearly Meeting this year, in collaboration with Quaker Peace and Social Witness and Young Friends General Meeting.
Marking the centenary of the introduction of conscription and of the right to conscientious objection, Leeds Friend Robert Keeble reflected on his great grandparents’ experiences as CO’s during the first world war. Robert’s grandfather continued this thread of concern and action in his own life, being central to the setting up the Peace Tax Campaign (now known as Conscience) in the late 1970s. Linking these areas of concern, and our current concerns about Trident and militarism, we held a short vigil in the city centre during our lunch break.
Our meetings are always occasions at which members can bring concerns from Friends in their Area Meeting. It was clear throughout the day that the activities of Friends in supporting and welcoming those seeking sanctuary and asylum are significant, providing practical ways for people to witness to our common humanity and to build links and friendships. Friends also reported on a range of activities to reach a wider audience with our peace concerns, both through highlighting the history of those who opposed war 100 years ago, and through promoting different aspects of peace education.
In reflecting on the particular electoral opportunities ahead, we shared different perspectives on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Whilst recalling the origins of the Coal and Steel Community as a means of building links across a previously divided and warring Europe, we were also reminded of the current role of big business in shaping people’s lives in sometimes very undemocratic ways. Economic power and military power can both be violent in different and interlinked ways.
Through all our peace witness, from the local to the international level, we were reminded that there is great value in bringing people together, in working and engaging with other groups and in promoting and sharing alternative approaches and different narratives, coupling vision with analysis, hope with practical action. Small regional NFPB gatherings could provide spaces for some or all of these – pease contact the NFPB office if you would be interested in hosting such an event.
For more information about our recent and forthcoming work, see our update at: http://nfpb.org.uk/nfpb-update-march-2016 or download this as a pdf