The last of the Quaker Testimonies is the one dealing with Justice, Equality and Community. Quakers really do believe in “that of God in everyone” or to put it another way “that of Good in everyone.” I know what you are thinking--what about Hitler? Or Pol Pot? Or George W Bush? But hear me out. If everyone--and I mean everyone--is made in the image of God and filled with both Light and Darkness then consider the words of George Fox, founder of the Quakers.
I saw also that there was an ocean of darkness and death, but an infinite ocean of light and love, which flowed over the ocean of darkness. And in that I saw the infinite love of God.
There is an ocean of light and love in us all, but some of us choose to dive back into the murky depths of the ocean of darkness and death, but there is always light and love inside, even if it is buried and forgotten.
Quakers recognize the equal worth and unique nature of every person. Quakers were one of the earliest advocates for women’s rights as well as the abolition of slavery. This means working to change the systems that cause injustice. This is one of the reasons we have pressed on towards citizenship-we will be granted the right to vote and voting is one way to change the system. But not the only way.
Quaker Advices and Queries 34-35:
34: Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.
35: Respect the laws of the state but let your first loyalty be to God's purposes. If you feel impelled by strong conviction to break the law, search your conscience deeply. Ask your meeting for the prayerful support which will give you strength as a right way becomes clear.
Many Quakers have become involved in the protest at Faslane http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faslane_Peace_Camp involving the Trident Nuclear Submarines. We sent delegates to go for a protest a few years ago and I felt called to go, but knew I could not. If we had been arrested I could have been deported. Citizenship would mean I would only get arrested, should God call me to do something I believe is right.
Quakers also work with people who are suffering from injustice such as prisoners and asylum seekers. I have a pen pal on death row in Texas. Because I believe in the words of Sister Helen Prejean—No one is as bad as the worst thing they’ve ever done. I was profoundly moved when I heard her speak in London a few years ago at a Human Rights conference and have come to treasure my friendship with my pen pal. He may have made a bad choice (a very bad choice) but I believe he is a good person and I am not ashamed to call him my friend.
Quaker Advices and Queries 32-33:
32: Bring into God's light those emotions, attitudes and prejudices in yourself which lie at the root of destructive conflict, acknowledging your need for forgiveness and grace. In what ways are you involved in the work of reconciliation between individuals, groups and nations?
33: Are you alert to practices here and throughout the world which discriminate against people on the basis of who or what they are or because of their beliefs? Bear witness to the humanity of all people, including those who break society's conventions or its laws. Try to discern new growing points in social and economic life. Seek to understand the causes of injustice, social unrest and fear. Are you working to bring about a just and compassionate society which allows everyone to develop their capacities and fosters the desire to serve?
Many of the causes of injustice are on our doorstep. Cheap clothing that comes from sweat shop labour. Cheap meat that comes from intense factory farming. Cheap labour that comes from asylum seekers that we exploit.
Many Quakers are involved in peace keeping and negotiations between warring countries. Our Meeting House has sponsored and raised money for South East Asia Peace Projects for 2 years. How can we do the same in our own communities or our homes?
Being a Quaker means that I am constantly on the lookout for ways to make the world a better place. Every day I pray the prayer of St Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.