For our second members’ meeting of the year, Friends gathered in Darlington and online on 24 June, with roughly equal numbers in the physical and virtual spaces respectively. The date of our meeting coincided with the government-sponsored ‘Armed Forces Day’ and Friends had the opportunity to reflect on this in the opening part of the meeting.
We were pleased to be joined by Charlotte Cooper, the Peace Lead for Quakers in Britain. Charlotte had recently participated in a peace movement-organised International Summit for Peace In Ukraine and gave an account of the event, highlighting the value of solidarity and of listening to different perspectives in the search for peace. The latter is not always comfortable during a time of such intense violent conflict.
Some NFPB Friends had prepared a possible statement from NFPB in relation to the war in Ukraine; this was considered and some changes were suggested to the drafting group. The amended statement highlights the need for governments to work on building preconditions of peace and to support the obligation for all to be treated humanely, and the rights of those who refuse to fight on the grounds of conscience to be respected.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the first Chair of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford, supported by the Quaker Peace Studies Trust. Members of the Trust talked about their work and future priorities, including a conference in 2024 and fundraising so that they can continue to support new students. Friends reflected on the need for longer-term thinking on peace and the role of peace studies in encouraging this, whilst being very aware of pressing and complex world crises that call out for urgent action.
NFPB members shared news and reflections of peace-related concerns in their areas, from work with asylum seekers to vigils for peace, preparation for action on climate and arms-trade concerns, and more. (see below for links to information about some of these activies and projects). In considering possible new strands of NFPB work, Friends talked about the value of activities that bring people together, and that help to empower and energise at a time of many demands and huge issues. These and other points made will be taken further by Friends in planning future NFPB activities
Our trustees gave a short report of their recent work, including a financial update and the Trustees Report and Accounts for 2022. The best use of reserves, alongside income from Quaker Area and Local Meetings in the north, was considered; the Board’s work is enabled through funds left to us as legacies as well as by the continuing generosity of Friends today.
The meeting began and closed with periods of silent worship, and in the lunch break Friends were able to enjoy the peaceful surroundings of the Quaker burial ground, valuing friendship and food. NFPB next plans to meet at Central Edinburgh Meeting House on 23 September.
Peace-related concerns and activities shared by Friends during our meeting
- Michael Mears’ performances of The Mistake over the autumn – various venues: https://michaelmears.org/dates-for-your-diary
- Quaker Roots – Quakers preparing for witness at the DSEI arms fair in September https://www.quaker-roots.org.uk
- Holocaust Memorial Day 2024 https://www.hmd.org.uk/what-is-holocaust-memorial-day/this-years-theme
- Darlington Assistance for Refugees – https://darlingtonrefugees.org/
- Sheffield Creative Action for Peace (SCRAP) – https://www.facebook.com/Sheffield-Creative-Action-for-Peace-Scrap-214396975421071/
- Menwith Hill Accountability Campaign https://themhac.uk/
- News about the new location for the Peace Museum – https://www.peacemuseum.org.uk/News/the-peace-museum-is-moving-to-salts-mill
- Friends Peace Teams, Europe https://friendspeaceteams.org/europe/
- Peace Wave – https://worldbeyondwar.org/wave/