NFPB members gathered in Sheffield for our last meeting of the year, being joined by a number of other Friends from the Area Meeting. On this occasion, as well as some routine business and sharing news of Friends’ peace witness across the North, Friends participated in two workshops.
Firstly, Sue Beardon of the Quaker Committee for Christian and Interfaith Relations, introduced a concern that that group has been considering – Religion and Violence. With a statement of the World Council of Churches being the stimulus, the Committee is exploring how they can help Friends in considering and responding to the issues. Sue asked NFPB members to work in groups to identify some key questions. These ranged from a concern about the way in which religion can be used to sanction violence, to a tendency towards ‘othering’ in religious traditions. The opportunities and challenges of our own peace testimony were also discussed, and Friends recognised that the roots of violence are often greed or fear, which religion can exploit but are not integral to religion.
Rethinking Security (https://rethinkingsecurity.org.uk) was the focus of our second workshop, introduced and facilitated by Celia McKeon. Friends were led through an exercise to name principles that might underpin a different, non-military, approach to security, from local to international levels. The practical application and challenges of these principals were the other areas of focus. Not surprisingly, Friends’ identified our testimonies to equality and care for the planet as key. Issues of nationalism, diversity and the effectiveness of nonviolence were amongst those that raised challenges and dilemmas. NFPB is looking forward to supporting Rethinking Security in promoting and enabling similar conversations amongst Friends and more widely.
The centenary of the end of WW1 had taken place since our last meeting, and Friends reported on a range of peace witness during that remembrance period, much involving the distribution and use of white poppies. Friends also described activities in support of refugees, in peace education, witness against the arms trade and in promoting nuclear disarmament. We were pleased to hear from Quaker Voluntary Action’s Hannah Brock, as well as news of a wide range of groups and networks in which NFPB members are involved – see below for links to some of these. We were also encouraged to hear of QPSW’s peace education initiative with the Inspire project, marking the centenary of the end of WW1.
Circumstances have not always made it easy for NFPB members to attend meetings this year, with the severe cold snap at the start of the year and weekend industrial action on train services. But when we have been able to meet, Friends have attended in good numbers and have brought great energy and commitment. Thank you to all those Friends and to the Area Meetings across the North who support our work. Next year’s meetings will take place in Liverpool, Edinburgh, Carlisle and Leeds.
The following are links relating to organisations and issues addressed at the meeting
- World Council of Churches statement on Religion and Violence: https://www.oikoumene.org/en/resources/documents/central-committee/2016/…
- Rethinking Security: https://rethinkingsecurity.org.uk
- Quaker Voluntary Action: http://qva.org.uk
- International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons : http://uk.icanw.org
- Roots of Resistance: https://rootsofresistance.org.uk/ [now Quaker Roots, as of September 2020 ]
- Veterans for Peace UK: http://vfpuk.org
- Quakers in Britain – Peace Education: http://www.quaker.org.uk/our-work/peace/peace-education
- War School movie: https://www.war.school
- City of Sanctuary: https://cityofsanctuary.org