Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Activity 2: Peace Testimony

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Copy Handout 2 for all participants. Read and become familiar with it.
  • Make several copies of Leader Resource 3, Panel Questions.
  • Place a pen with each writing pad. If the group has an even number of youth, place red pens with two pads, and place equal numbers of blue and black pens with the remaining pads. If the group has an odd number, place a red pen with one pad, and place equal numbers of blue and black pens with the remaining pads. (For groups of four or fewer youth, omit the red pen.)

Description of Activity

Participants learn about peace churches and Quaker Peace Testimony, and debate the ethics and effectiveness of two strategies: Peace Advocacy and Just War Advocacy.

Tell youth they will examine the Quaker stance for peace. Say:

Only three Christian churches are historically considered "peace churches"-Mennonites (including the Amish), Church of the Brethren, and the Religious Society of Friends.

Would you have expected Unitarian Universalists to be on the list of peace churches? Why or why not? [The Unitarian Universalist Association is not a Christian church, and has never taken a stand against all war.]

Explain that a fundamental expression of Quaker faith is the peace testimony. A Friends meeting ("meeting" refers to a group of Quakers) can create a peace testimony for the group; also, individuals often write peace testimonies for themselves as statements of faith.

Tell youth you will share examples of historic Quaker Peace Testimonies. Distribute, then read aloud Handout 2, Quaker Peace Testimonies. Make sure participants understand when each of these testimonies was written.

Ask participants for their initial reactions to the testimonies. Say, in these words or your own:

Most Quakers remain true to their commitment to peace, despite events like the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This commitment can be perceived by non-Quakers as naive, unrealistic, or unpatriotic. Some Quakers at times have consented to serve in the military for what they believed was a "just war." Many Friends, however, staunchly believe that violence will never be subdued with more violence.

Point out that the third testimonial is in response to the pacificism of the second and supports a military response to extreme military aggression.

Now invite participants to each take a pad of writing paper and a pen. Tell them they will form groups for a panel discussion. One group will be Peace Advocates, asserting that a comprehensive commitment to peace is the only rational and ethical choice that will ultimately be effective. The other group will be the Just War Advocates, asserting that violence is the rational and ethical choice in some circumstances. If the group is large enough, one (if you have an odd number of youth) or two (even number) will be Facilitators.

Ask for a show of hands so youth can indicate which group they prefer to join, and whether they want to be Facilitator/s. If the youth form equal size groups, wonderful. If needed, divide them into groups by the pens they picked up: red pen = Facilitator/s, blue pens = Peace Advocates, black pens = Just War Advocates. If the group is very large, invite some youth to be observers.

Give facilitators Leader Resource 3, Panel Questions. If there are two Facilitators, have one operate the timer (otherwise, an adult facilitator can do this) and the other direct questions to the panelists. Allow two minutes for responses. If you have time, pose each question to both groups, keeping the two-minute limit and alternating which group answers first.

Conclude the forum by inviting all panelists to shake hands with all the others. If there were observers, ask which panel seemed more persuasive. Why?

Point out that the Society of Friends has gained worldwide respect and recognition for the impact of its faithful work in the world. In fact, the Quakers are the only religious organization to have been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, in 1947, for outstanding humanitarian efforts saving hundreds of thousands of civilian lives in the two world wars.