At this time of year many of us will be looking back and reviewing the last year, and looking forward to the New Year, making plans and resolutions.
This January in particular Quakers are looking back 350 years, to a declaration made to Charles II that was the first written statement of our peace testimony. The writers had lived through the recent bloody conflict of the English Civil War.
It begins ‘Our principle has always been, to seek peace, and ensue it, and to follow after righteousness, and the knowledge of God, seeking the Good and Well-fare, and doing that which tends to the peace of All’ and continues ‘We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever’.
A Quaker testimony is not a form of words, it is something we aim to express in our lives through our actions. In a way it is like the English constitution, which is not written down but is expressed in our law.
The way we express the peace testimony in our lives will differ for each one of us. Some will engage in non violent direct action against weapons of mass destruction, as at Greenham Common and more recently at Aldermaston. Others will be involved in dialogue with their local MP, in writing to newspapers, or in providing safe spaces where politicians can talk ‘off the record’. Some are developing ways and teaching skills so that people can make their views heard without resorting to violence, as at the ‘Turning the Tide’ workshop that ran recently in Watford and that has also been working among young people in Kenya. Still others engage in mediation work, either formally, or informally among their colleagues.
In 2011 the peace testimony will be as challenging to put into practice as it has ever been but we can each be asking ourselves “What can I do this year to make the world a more peaceful place for everyone?”
Stephanie Grant, as in the Watford Observer on 31st December.