Monday, 24 January 2011

Ride on the Peace Train

This month marks the 350th anniversary of the Quaker Peace Testimony. For those of you not familiar with Quaker testimonies let me just say that while many religions have creeds to declare their beliefs (think the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed) and sacraments such as baptism or communion and a Pastor/Vicar/Priest to perform these rites, Quakers strip away all that artifice and attempt to have a deep, personal relationship with God without someone there to be a conduit between us and God and without ritual that might get in the way of hearing “the still small voice“ as it speaks to us. My friend Gemma the Hare Krishna nun said it best when we were discussing what we wanted from life:
We are trying to cultivate a relationship with God so we can make a connection on a transcendental level, soul to soul.

Quaker testimonies have a long history. For example, we have worked for the abolition of slavery and are still involved in racial justice issues. Many early Quakers wore undyed clothes and refused sugar for their tea because both indigo for dyes and sugar were both associated with the slave trade. Quaker testimonies exist in spiritually led actions rather than in rigid written form.  (from the leaflet: Living What We Believe- Quaker testimonies: a way of living faithfully)

But back to the Peace Testimony. As I said Quakers dont have creeds--we have testimonies. The Peace Testimony is the oldest. In 1661 a group of Friends (as Quakers refer to themselves) went Before King Charles II with a document  that explained their position. Quakers believe in “that of God in everyone” and if everyone is a child of God then who are we to kill them? 

This is an extract from the original document but written with modern lettering --the original was really hard to read because the letter s looks like an f. That could cause some real confusion if not careful.

We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fighting with outward weapons for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our testimony to the whole world. The 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 and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.

Many Quakers were conscientious objectors in the 2 World Wars. This did not mean they did not serve their country--it simply means they refused to take up arms. The Friends Ambulance Unit worked on the front lines caring for the wounded, but never wounding anyone. They also worked hard after both wars with peace and reconciliation.

Quaker Advices and Queries 31 has this to say about it:
We are called to live 'in the virtue of that life and power that takes away the occasion of all wars'. Do you faithfully maintain our testimony that war and the preparation for war are inconsistent with the spirit of Christ? Search out whatever in your own way of life may contain the seeds of war. Stand firm in our testimony, even when others commit or prepare to commit acts of violence, yet always remember that they too are children of God.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

1 comment:

  1. what a lovely morning meditation to read over my coffee. a nice quiet testimony of gentleness and Godliness.