Seeds of peace and costs of war

The Meeting House in Lincoln was the venue for our late September meeting. Joined by a good number of local Friends and other visitors, NFPB members explored the nature of our peace witness. Friends who had been involved in acts of witness reported both positive and negative experiences. In Conwy, we heard, serious consideration is being given to promoting peace education and appointing a local authority Peace Champion, following witness at the Armed Forces Day national events in nearby Llandudno. In Blackpool, however, on the same day, Veterans for Peace protestors were threatened with arrest . A number of Friends had been at the Nae Nukes international rally and march at Faslane the previous weekend to our gathering and were inspired by the good turnout and positive nature of the event. NFPB appointed a small group to take forward work on nuclear disarmament, focusing particularly on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and how it can be used to promote nuclear disarmament by the United Kingdom.

We heard of a number of events coming up to mark the centenary of the end of the first world war, including ambitious plans to distribute white poppies in Leeds city centre, national events on the theme of ‘No More War – Let’s Make Peace’ , and the Veterans for Peace presence at the Cenotaph with the banner reading “Never Again”. NFPB posters with that wording are also being made available at no cost for Friends to use over this period.

Earlier in the year, the International Bomber Command Centre was opened on the outskirts of Lincoln, with the aim to promote Remembrance, Recognition and Reconciliation. We heard from local Friend, Ruth Allen-Williams about the volunteering that she and her husband have been undertaking for the centre. Ruth described the ‘immersive experience’ the visitor centre puts on, with powerful imagery both of the WW2 bombing-raids themselves and of the consequences in Germany of these. She reported that both Bomber Command veterans and children on school visits have been challenged to recognise the horrific nature of such military actions. In a powerful session, we explored how we can share Quaker concerns for peace at such military-related projects. We considered the long-term trauma and other consequences for both those on the receiving end of armed violence, and for those trained and employed by the military to follow orders to kill. The actions by current military personnel in remotely operating drones from nearby RAF Waddington is also known to leave a legacy of trauma both for those personnel and for the people and communities targeted by them.

We concluded our meeting by looking ahead to a number of opportunities for wider collaboration.. Next September’s DSEI arms fair in London is the focus of a new network of Friends, called Roots of Resistance, with the aim of seeing 1,000 Quakers witnessing and taking action during the first week of September 2019. NFPB has also begun a conversation with the Quaker Committee on Christian and Interfaith Relationships on the theme of Religion and Violence, working to support Friends in responding to the Trondheim Declaration . Our own exploration of Identity and Peace continues, although we had insufficient time to address this properly on this occasion. We had been approached to collaborate with another Quaker group to help arrange a conference populism; we will be considering this further. We appointed a small group to do some planning and development for our programme of workshops; information about these workshops is available here .

It has been a long while since we met in Lincoln, and were particularly grateful for the warm hospitality provided by local Friends and for the efforts of Friends in making the journeys there, in spite of the industrial action and engineering work affecting rail services.

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