Thousand Island MM Minute

TIMM Minute with comments


For over three hundred years Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends, have testified and acted for peace. The Peace Testimony has sometimes been a source of struggle and disagreement. Friends (as Quaker more properly refer to each other) have not always been in complete unity about their pacifism. As a consequence of changing circumstances, Friends have wrestled with the Peace Testimony, refined and restated it in each generation. But over all the centuries, the solid core of our witness has been largely unchanged. Margaret Fell, on behalf of the Friends, first presented the Peace Testimony to King Charles II and his government in 1660.

All bloody principles and practices we do utterly deny, with all outward wars and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end for any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world… .

Her presentation went on to state the spiritual basis for this uncompromising position. Earlier, and in another context, George Fox spoke to the government (this time in the person of Oliver Cromwell and the Commonwealth Commissioners) saying that he (Fox) “lived by the virtue of that life and power that took away the occasion of all wars,” thus emphasizing that it was not sufficient to be against war, but rather that it was necessary to conduct one’s life in a peaceful and just manner.

The Peace Testimony in the 21st Century springs from the same source as in earlier times. That source is the spiritual experience of Quakers in a community of silent worship. Now, as then, we know from religious experience that every person is a child of God and that violence against the children of God is wrong. We are convinced that all persons deserve a place in the sun, and deserve to be able to live their lives free from the destruction and terror of war. We also know in the same way that it is wrong to teach our children to hate their enemies and to kill them on command.

This deeply felt spiritual experience matches the radical teachings on peace to be found in the Christian Gospels and in comparable teachings of other religions. To deny war and preparations for war creates discomfort because it defies the logic of vengeance. Submitting to violence, and caring for the welfare one’s enemies are extreme departures from what the world considers normal. Pacifism also makes us vulnerable because it sets us apart from those who desire war. In the past, and still today, pacifists have suffered and died for their convictions. Many people are yearning for a more peaceful world, but they find that it is easier to support war than to face the consequences of pacifism. The path of peace is not an easy one.

Practical actions flow from these deeply religious foundations. We assert that right policies can flow only from the most profound ideals. A peace-loving people must first find peace within themselves and treat their neighbours in loving, compassionate ways. Peace begins at home with justice for all. To do this there must be increase in the skills of non-violent action, skills to negotiate and arrange peaceful settlements of disagreements and disputes. Many Canadians are well aware of the need for such skills, and the inclination to use them in local and national disputes. The need is even greater internationally where the leaders of powerful nations find it in their interests to force their will on others by warfare. The legitimate needs and aspirations of people must have some realization. The price of peace is helping your enemies to be happy. Our situation is much more complex than when Quakers first articulated the Peace Testimony because we now have our economy fed by production of war materiel. It was an easier prospect to beat swords into plowshares than it is to convert battle tanks into farm tractors. There are no peaceful uses to which the manufacturing of cluster bombs can be put. Conscription of young men for compulsory killing has been replaced by conscription of compulsory financing through war taxes. The lust for power over others and the greed for profit are among the most despicable and pervasive characteristics of corporate and governmental militarism in the 21st Century. The history of warfare shows that it has never succeeded in bringing peace. Violence feeds upon itself and warfare reproduces itself. War is not an effective instrument of policy. It simply does not work to achieve the goals stated for it. “A war to end wars,” “Peace in our time” and “War on terror” are slogans whose emptiness is clear. Modern warfare has extended itself to ravage innocent people, dismissed as “collateral damage,” another slogan loaded with irony and contempt for humanity. We reject the causes of war, whether real or imagined, and are outraged at its cost in human lives.

We respect the high ideals of humanitarian service which motivate many men and women who join the armed forces. There is need for well-trained and disciplined groups to serve the common good in relief of suffering caused by various disasters at home and abroad. There is also need throughout the world for such people to stand between warring factions while peace work goes on. This work, often assigned to the military, is ideally suited to well-equipped, well-trained, unarmed groups supported at public expense. We see a place for such non-violent peace forces as a sound replacement for Canada’s military establishment.

Peace must be demonstrated in our homes, in our communities and nation. To do this we must first overcome fear and then practice peace. Spiritual practice and faith-based discernment is the source of courage which has sustained pacifists throughout the centuries. Once courage is found then we can practice A.J. Muste’s advice, ”There is no way to peace; peace is the way.” We can refuse to be complicit in destructive life styles that destroy the earth’s life support system and lead to injustices which promote conflict.

We bear witness to these truths and call on people of good will to join us to create a culture of peace.Bert Horwood 309-350 Wellington Street Kingston, Ontario K7K 7J 613 544 7253

Dear Bert, Thank you for suggesting the topic peace for our next Regional Gathering.
I read the Thousand Islands draft resolution, and wonder if it still reflects your thoughts.

Line 3: Friends"(as Quakers more properly refer to each other)" Is this necessary? could it be as Quakers often refer to each other, or just left out here?

Page 2: last line of 1st paragraph: "We reject the causes of war". Could that be "we reject the justification for war"?

Page 2: 2nd paragraph: Do you still agree that "unarmed peace force should stand between fighting factions"? Could the Canadian government do more dialogue,negotiation and disarmament instead?

Thousands Islands Meeting has not discussed or approved any revisions to the statement as approved last year. But it was put out there for others to discuss, modify and approve in the hopes that eventually, CYM would write a Minute of Record on the Peace Testimony, that would be viable for 15-20 years. So it's not up to TIMM to approve changes, but up to whatever other body is doing the work to create its own version and pass it along the line.

Re line 3: We intended this to for public consumption and for outreach purposes, so the explanatory words about Friends and Quakers were felt necessary. Re "causes of war;" "justification" works okay but why use a 5-syllable word when a 1-syllable word is right on.

Re unarmed peace force. Absolutely. That's what the various non-violent peace groups are all about. Is it dangerous? Sure but not nearly as dangerous as a shooting match. Government sponsored negotiation is desirable and may be should be included. It's important in the writing of this not to make it about Afghanistan or Palestine or Darfur because the document has to be general enough to be good for many years and many unforeseeable situations.

I'm not sure whether the Meeting is able to revisit this again now, but I'll ask. I think we hope other Meetings will take it up and send things to CYM. Many thanks for your very thoughtful response, and warm blessings
Bert Horwood

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