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HANDOUT 2: Quaker Peace Testimonies

I. George Fox, in Declaration to King Charles II, 1660

All bloody principles and practices we utterly deny, all outward wars, and strife, and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever, and this is our testimony to the whole world. That spirit of Christ by which we are guided is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight any war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.

II. Religious Society of Friends, (Quakers) in America, 1917 (World War I)

(Excerpted)

To Our Fellow Citizens:

In this time of crisis when our country's highest good is the common aim of all, we voice this deep conviction of patriotic duty.

We rejoice that even at this time, when the world is crazed by war, so many men are judging war by moral and, spiritual standards, and by ideals of sacrifice. The causes for which men fight—liberty, justice and peace—are noble and Christian causes. But the method of war is unchristian and immoral. War itself violates law, justice, liberty and peace, the very ends for which alone its tragic cost might be justified.

Further, the method of war is ineffective to these ends. Might does not decide the right, ideals cannot be maintained by force, nor can evil overcome evil. True national honor is a nation's own integrity and unselfish service. Only unswerving honesty and self-control maintain it. Rights, the rights of all, are securely defended between nations as between individuals by mutual confidence, not suspicion; by universal cooperation and law, not by private armed force. The alternative to war is not inactivity and cowardice. It is the irresistible and constructive power of good-will. True patriotism at this time calls not for a resort to the futile methods of war, but for the invention and practice on a gigantic scale of new methods of conciliation and altruistic service. The present intolerable situation among nations demands an unprecedented expression of organized national good-will.

Unpractical though such ideals may seem, experience has taught that ideals can be realized if we have faith to practice now what all men hope for in the future,

III. Some Particular Advices for Friends and A Statement of Loyalty for Others; used with permission.

Being the Views of Some Members of the Society of Friends regarding Its Attitude toward the Present Crisis, Third Month, 1918 (World War I)

(Excerpted)

There are certain fundamental principles of right and humanity which every man must feel called upon to defend, even to the extent of forcible resistance if long continued intolerable conditions caused by morally defunct people are to be ended before the world is enslaved. For more than two centuries the Society of Friends has stood steadfastly and consistently for peace to the limit of toleration. It is in matters of individual conflict, however, rather than in national wrongs that these principles have proved effective. Many distinguished Friends in the past have realized that in cases of great collective oppression mere submission only renders the objects of the oppressor more easily attained. ...

We believe that the majority of Friends are as earnestly opposed as anyone to the enthrallment of the world by a military caste, to the human slavery and slaughter imposed upon Belgium, Poland, Armenia and other countries, to the wholesale destruction of innocent, non-combatant women and children, to unparalleled atrocities and to the spread of organized barbarism. We think that a decent respect for the opinions of mankind makes it incumbent upon the Society of Friends to make such a statement... .

We do not agree with those who would utter sentimental platitudes while a mad dog is running amuck biting women and children, with those who would stand idly by quoting some isolated passage of Scripture while an insane man murdered him, ravished his wife, bayoneted his babies or crucified his friends, with any person who would discuss with some well and contented stranger the merits of various fire extinguishers while his wife and children are calling to him from the flames of his burning house.

We believe that wrong is relative and has degrees, that there are greater things than human life and worse things than war. There is a difference between peace as an end and peace as a means to an end. We do not want peace with dishonor or a temporary peace with evil. ... We therefore deem it consistent with our Quaker faith to act according to the dictates of our own consciences and proclaim a unity with teachings of Jesus Christ and the messages of the President of our country. [To enter the war]

IV. After the Shock Has Passed: Quaker Commitments to Work for Healing, Justice, and Peace

A Statement from Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the American Friends Service Committee, Friends General Conference, and Friends World Committee for Consultation (a week after September 11, 2001; used with permission of Arthur Larrabee and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Now that the initial shock of the terrorist attacks of last week has passed, deep grief and profound anger has set in for many of us. Now the critical questions that confront us all are several: How can we best comfort those who mourn? How can we begin to heal some of the wounds to all of our souls as well as our bodies? How can we see that justice is really done? How can we build bridges of understanding and reconciliation among all people so that there is no more harm done and no more hatred sown? How can we begin anew the work of creating a world where there can really be peace, addressing the injustice and despair which are so often the seeds of violence, so there will be no more victims?

These are the tasks to which a God of love calls all members of the human family. How will we respond?

As organizations of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) and people of faith we find ourselves challenged to continue to respond to the tragic and horrific events of September 11. Indeed, we feel called—and believe all people of good will are called now—to respond to these events and the hurts they have caused in ways that are deeper and more sustained than our initial shock and grief may have allowed. In particular, we believe the work of building a different and better world, one in which all persons are seen as sacred because we are all children of God, one where this kind of act would not happen again, is the calling of all of us who worship a God of truth, grace and mercy.

To our dismay, we have heard people in the highest levels of our government calling for retribution rather than justice. To our astonishment we hear the talk of war and plans for war in which our nation in turn would cause the death of innocents—the sin which so appalled us—asserting this will somehow put things right. To our sorrow, we have seen people from many walks of life in our own communities striking out in their anger against other people in our communities just because of the faith they profess, the color of their skin or the country of their origin.

We say with certainty that these statements, plans and actions will not lead us to healing, justice or peace; and we pray they will cease.

In contrast, we commit ourselves, to reach out to all who have been injured in any way by the events of the past week; and to offering comfort, solace, and practical support in any way we can. We commit ourselves to reach out to those whose backgrounds, cultures and faith may be different than our own; and to listen and learn, in hopes of building the foundations of understanding and respect on which peace can be built. We support the prosecution of those who perpetrated this horrendous crime; and commit ourselves to the achievement of justice under law and due process, including international law.

Finally we commit ourselves to praying and working for righteousness and reconciliation, as the God of Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed has taught us, so that there may be no more victims of hate and terror anywhere.

Mary Ellen McNish, American Friends Service Committee
Thomas Jeavons, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Bruce Birchard, Friends General Conference
Cilde Grover, Friends World Committee on Consultation

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 29, 2014.

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