Reclaiming Gospel Nonviolence – a conference report

Fellowship of Reconciliation trustee Geraldine Bridges reports on the conference held 14-16 July in St Mary’s Monastery in Perth. A video of keynote speaker John Dear is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GT1nCc_lock&feature=youtu.be

John Dear speaks at the Kinnoull conference

John Dear speaks at the Kinnoull conference

Taking the opportunity of the rise in the nonviolent movement within and without the church, and the need for an ecumenical conference, participants explored the centrality of active nonviolence to Christianity, the recent shifts from Just War to Nonviolence. We looked at work done in communities around the world, and opportunities to develop nonviolence in Scotland. As Martin Luther King said “it’s either nonviolence or non-existence.”

Reclaiming Gospel NonViolence was the title of the Conference and was held at Kinnoull, Perth in St. Mary’s Monastery. Sponsors and participants included the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR), International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, The Scottish Episcopalian Church, Quakers, Methodists, Justice and Peace Scotland, Conforti Institute and others working for peace and nonviolence.

It was a packed programme. John Dear, the American priest, author of thirty-five books and lifelong peace activist, was a keynote speaker, along with Lucas Johnson, International Coordinator for the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR). John gave two inspiring talks about his work for peace based on the nonviolent message, life and work of Jesus in the gospels. Lucas talked about the work of IFOR: the Beloved Community Project to bring together majority and minority groups in Europe; his recent work in South Sudan with the Organisation for Nonviolence And Democracy, a member of IFOR;  and the peace presence accompaniment work in Columbia, where international observers accompany and protect local communities striving for peace.

Lucas Johnson at Kinnoull 2017

Lucas Johnson reflecting at the Kinnoull conference

Workshops were also facilitated by both of the international speakers as well as Pat Gaffney of Pax Christi, who ran a workshop on our taking the nonviolent gospel message to our communities. Jan Benvie who has worked with the CPT did a workshop on Christian Peacemaking in Palestine/Israel based on her experiences there.

Kinnoull Hill was a wonderful setting for the Conference and work is now underway to develop the peace networks and training programmes for Scotland so that the movement will flourish and counter the violence towards each other and the earth so prevalent not only in Scotland but globally.

Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Adopted

ICAN image Abacca treaty adoptedNegotiations conclude at the United Nations, new treaty will open for signing in September

After a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and 72 years after their invention, today states at the United Nations formally adopted a treaty which categorically prohibits nuclear weapons.

Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992.

On adoption of the treaty, ICAN Executive Director Beatrice Fihn said:
“We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security.
No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable – no matter the circumstance – yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do.
Today the international community rejected nuclear weapons and made it clear they are unacceptable.
It is time for leaders around the world to match their values and words with action by signing and ratifying this treaty as a first step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.”

The “Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” was adopted Friday morning and will open for signature by states at the United Nations in New York on September 20, 2017. Civil society organisations and more than 140 states have participated in negotiations.

This treaty is a clear indication that the majority of the world no longer accepts nuclear weapons and does not consider them legitimate tools of war. The repeated objection and boycott of the negotiations by many nuclear-weapon states demonstrates that this treaty has the potential to significantly impact their behaviour and stature. As has been true with previous weapon prohibition treaties, changing international norms leads to concrete changes in policies and behaviours, even in states not party to the treaty.

“The strenuous and repeated objections of nuclear armed states is an admission that this treaty will have a real and lasting impact,” Fihn said.

The treaty also creates obligations to support the victims of nuclear weapon use and testing, and to remediate the environmental damage caused by nuclear weapons.

From the beginning, the effort to ban nuclear weapons has benefited from the broad support of international humanitarian, environmental, nonproliferation, and disarmament organisations in more than 100 states. Significant political and grassroots organising has taken place around the world, and many thousands have signed petitions, joined protests, contacted representatives, and pressured governments.

About ICAN
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a global campaign coalition working to mobilize people in all countries to inspire, persuade and pressure their governments to prohibit nuclear weapons.
ICAN has worked closely with governments on this process since 2010, and campaigns in about 100 countries to ensure that this treaty becomes a reality.
More information about ICAN can be found on www.icanw.org
FoR is a partner of ICAN.

Christian peace groups urge UK participation in UN nuclear talks

Are you ready to ban nuclear weapons? Image courtesy of ICAN

Are you ready to ban nuclear weapons? Image courtesy of ICAN

The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a member of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations, which released the following press release on Monday 19th June 2017. 

Over 130 countries are continuing negotiations to outlaw nuclear weapons entirely.

A second round of meetings began in New York on 15 June to draft a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty. If approved, this treaty would make it illegal to “develop, produce, manufacture or otherwise acquire”, to use nuclear weapons. The ban treaty is strongly supported by, among others, the International Committee of the Red Cross/Red Crescent, the World Medical Association, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican.

“It is a tragedy and we believe a gross failure of duty, that the UK Government will take no part in these meetings, despite pleas and lobbying for months in advance of the meetings”, said Philip Austin of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations. “The permanent members of the UN Security Council, including the UK, have a responsibility to move the world beyond fear.”

Negotiations have been boycotted by all existing nuclear weapons states, as well as many countries which have nuclear weapons located on their soil. In a joint statement the UK and USA argued that existing treaties provide a framework for disarmament, but other countries have moved ahead with the talks because they have not seen ‘good faith’ efforts by nuclear states to disarm.

In a joint statement, the Methodists, Baptists, United Reformed Church, Church of Scotland and Quakers said: “We believe that the possession and threat of use of nuclear weapons is a sin against God and humanity. We repent of our complacency in allowing this state of affairs to continue for so long … We affirm that the trillions of dollars being squandered on these weapons are, in the words of President Dwight D Eisenhower, ‘a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed’.”

A nuclear weapons ban would mirror the existing bans on other inhumane weapons systems, such as biological and chemical weapons. Negotiations are covering not just the outlawing of nuclear weapons, but also how to monitor and verify compliance. International bans and treaties of this kind have had huge moral and legal significance in creating peace in our world.

Pope Francis, in his message to the March gathering which started the process stated “the ultimate goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons becomes both a challenge and a moral and humanitarian imperative. A concrete approach should promote a reflection on an ethics of peace and multilateral and cooperative security that goes beyond fear and isolationism in many debates today.”

New Development Manager starts at FoR

FoR's new Development Manager

FoR’s new Development Manager

Oliver Robertson joined FoR in May 2017 as its new Development Manager. He explains what he’ll be doing and what led him to this role. 

What is a ‘Development Manager’ anyway? Like many jobs in small charities, there’s bits of everything, but at its core this role is about giving the Fellowship of Reconciliation the things it needs to succeed. Part of the job is about supporting my colleagues, giving them the space to work on their core responsibilities. Part of it is about finding the money to be able to continue our work for peace and putting nonviolence into action. Part of it is about developing new projects, new expressions of Christian peacemaking. And part of it is about explaining all this, whether to the churches, the media or the public.

I’m a Quaker and come to FoR after many years working internationally. I had two stints at the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva, working to highlight the often-forgotten situation of children with a parent in prison and to help to build understanding among UN climate change negotiators. I have also worked to end the death penalty and prohibit life imprisonment at Penal Reform International.

I’ve known about FoR a long time (my grandparents met through FoR during World War Two), so the chance to work here was always attractive. Sadly, FoR’s longstanding mission of reconciliation and bringing together people who are divided, feels as needed today as ever. But the empowering role that FoR also plays, enabling its members to act practically and nonviolently, is inspiring: we don’t just need to reconcile ourselves to how things are now, but can build a better world where peace is deeper and more enduring. The Christian, faith-based nature of FoR allows us access to a rich heritage of past experience and spiritual support for this work; it is the roots and the soil in which we grow. I look forward to seeing what emerges in the coming years and to helping the organisation to flourish.

Plans to use EU peace fund for military activity

by Keziah Cooper

In March 2014 the European Union earmarked 2.3 billion euros to prevent civilian conflict and help promote peace. The IcSP (Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace) funds were to last until 2020 and were to be used in three main areas: crisis response, conflict prevention, and strategies to deal with emerging threats to peace and stability.

Since 2014, these funds have been used to support over 200 projects in 72 countries. In the Kivu region of the DR Congo, funds have been used to build a network of community leaders trained in peaceful dialogue, who step in where the government has mostly stepped aside. In Haiti, an IcSP project provides training and psychosocial support for marginalised communities affected by violence. In Iraq, over 3 million euros have been dedicated to ensuring that counter-terrorism strategies remain respectful of human rights.

However, the European Commission has recently started discussions on whether a new article should be introduced to the IcSP, directing a portion of its budget towards supporting military activity in some of the countries where it acts. This “enhanced” support for security and stability could include security training, capacity building programmes, and the provision of “non-lethal” equipment.

Security is clearly an important part of peace, and in areas touched by conflict, the safety of civilians is a huge concern. However, to use the military to address these concerns, particularly within a budget specifically devoted to peace and reconciliation, is deeply worrying. Not only would this risk the prioritisation of military spending and projects, but to aim for peace by military means is contradictory and detrimental.

You can call on the EU to uphold peaceful principles and keep peace and military budgets separate by writing to your MEP.

Other useful sites:

About the projects supported by the fund
Read more about the fund (official regulations document)
Press release about the plans from the EU

Remembrance

Armistice Day: Friday 11th November
Remembrance Sunday: 13th November

As pacifists, we mourn the dead of every single victim of war.

The season of remembrance is upon us.  We encourage people to think about the consequences of war throughout the year, but peace activists make a concerted effort during November. We consider the way we publicly remember war as a society; is it becoming one-sided, white-washed or over-simplified?

Remembrance is increasingly being used to paint the military is an entirely positive light and even to recruit people. We’re seeing shamelessly militaristic language, including poppies being sold in Manchester through self-proclaimed “office ‘raids’ in partnership with local businesses“.

Photo: British Legion

Photo: British Legion

How can we resist militaristic commemorations of war?

We must remember those killed in war. Often, though, our memorials and ceremonies forget, or deliberately omit, to talk about civilian deaths.  Are we really learning from the tragedy of war to prevent further conflict and death?  The “never again” message of Remembrance seems to be lost. Often lost amongst promotion of the armed forces. How good are we at spotting when war is being glorified, or soldiers hailed as heroes and a special sort of courageous?  Do we frequently deny that many civilian deaths are caused by members of the armed forces?

Perhaps you’d like to hold a vigil in your town square at 11am on 11th November. All you need is to invite people, and perhaps have a few white poppies for people to wear (see below). You could use some of the time to think about the different groups of people killed in war. All wars, and all people on all sides. Civilians. Soldiers. The people that the British military set out to kill. We must mourn all of their deaths, as they’re all victims of a violent, militarised society.

There will be a short vigil in Oxford for people of all faiths and none on Friday 11th November at 11am, to include a 2 minute silence and any prayers or poems people would like to contribute. At the Peace Plaque, Bonn Square (next to Westgate). Other events happening throughout the country.

We’re the only country in the EU to recruit children into the armed forces. You can sign this petition to raise the age of recruitment into the armed forces from 16 to 18.

White poppies are to remember all the victims of all wars. They are an outward sign that you reject violent forms of intervention and support peaceful alternatives.  You can get yours from FoR by calling 01865 250781 or fill in the form below.  Suggested donation for a poppy: £1.50 including p&p then 60p for each additional poppy. (Orders over 25 poppies, best to get them direct from the Peace Pledge Union)

For orders below £5, send a cheque payable to “Fellowship of Reconciliation to the address at the bottom of the page or by BACS: Account name as above, AN: 50492192, SC: 08-90-34

Here’s a prayer for Remembrance Sunday or during a vigil on Remembrance Day:

God the creator, sustainer and redeemer ,

We thank you for life and the freedom to live it.
We thank you for giving us people to love,
And people to find challenging.

Through your son you call us
To love our enemy.
Let us not forget that the people caught up in war
are not those in disagreement, but civilians;
That WWI was not fought between enemies,
But by pawns, children, conscripts in distant fields.

Help us never to forget those who have died in war,
But to be reminded that war is not an inevitable evil,
And to creatively seek nonviolent means.
Lead us along your path to peace,
Help us when the  pressure to conform grows strong
And to question when groups are scapegoated over
social,  political, or economic  problems.

Make us channels of your peace.

In Jesus name,

Amen

 For more information on the peace movement during WWI, see FoR’s publication Opposing World War One: Courange and Conscience.  There is also an interesting resource on Reimagining Remembranceproduced by Ekklesia.

FoR begun in 1914 to prevent the outbreak of WWI and to seek a nonviolent alternative. You can join a movement of people seeking to prevent war by addressing root causes of conflict, by becoming a member of FoR.

Other resources: The Peace Education Network has an assembly resource for upper primary and lower secondary pupils.

White poppy order form

 

Verification

Peace Sunday in Kerala, India

Photo by Habel Foundation

Photo by Habel Foundation

MarThoma Church, Kerala, India. Organised by the Habel Foundation.
Report by Samuel Nellikkadu

Habel Foundation celebrated Peace Sunday on September 25th 2016 in joining hands with Fellowship of Reconciliation. We held two meetings on the day and the short report is given below:

Morning session:

On 25th after the worship service a special “Peace Sunday” program was arranged in the Church. Dr.Samuel Nellikkadu presided over the meeting and explained about the need of peace building activities in today’s life. The President of the Mallappally Block Panchayat( Local Govt.body in Kerala, India) Mrs. Sosamma Thomas inaugurated the program.

The Lions Club Region Chairman Jacob Mammen Vattasserril, Joseph Chacko, Brigith P John, Jacob Kurian and N.B John spoke. An interfaith prayer was also conducted.

Afternoon session:

The same day afternoon at 3.pm we conducted another program in Habel Foundation’s hall. Dr. Samuel Nellikkadu, Chairman Habel Foundation presided over the function. Mr. Regi Chacko, President, Kallooppara, Grama Panchayat (Local Govt. body) inaugurated the function. The Vice-President of the Panchayat Mrs.Sheena Mathew, Members of the Panchayat Regi Philip, Soji Mathew, Lions Club Region Chairman Jacob Mammen Vattasseril Miss. Shanti Wilson facilitated.

We are keen to conduct more programs in connection with Peace and Reconciliation in the future. Thank you for allowing us to join hands with FoR to celebrate Peace Sunday.

We Will Not Fight – review

Review of We Will Not Fight performed by the UnderConstruction theatre company

Oxford, 19th May 2016

Singing "Guide me, oh, they great Redeemer". Phot: Stu Allsopp

Singing “Guide me o thou great Redeemer”. Photo: Stu Allsopp


 
A disused courtroom in central Oxford reverted to its former role in May as Under Construction Theatre re-enacted the court-martial of John “Bert” Brocklesby, one of the pacifists to be sentenced to death in World War One. Bert was one of 35 British pacifists condemned to be shot by firing squad in the spring of 1916. The sentence was commuted to ten years in prison.

Remarkably, director Lizzy McBain and her four actors had rehearsed and put together the play in only two days. The play was adapted from an earlier script produced by the Amnesty International group in Canterbury.

The play did a good job of conveying the complexity of first world war politics, as well as the personal struggles of an individual conscientious objector, in less than an hour. The trial was only a part of the play. We saw Bert’s mother frantically seeking advice about her son’s stubborn stance, a discussion between leading peace activists about the popular hostility to them, and the tribunal hearing at which Bert sought total exemption from the army as a conscientious objector – and, like most, was denied. A scene based on a debate in the House of Lords provided political context for those who were unfamiliar with the subject. This was followed by some painful viewing as we saw Bert bullied and beaten after being forced into the army and refusing to obey orders. Finally, the courtroom setting came to life as Bert was court-martialled, sentenced – and saved.

Adaptations were necessary to pack so much into such a short time and small space. There were some variations made to the details of Bert’s life and other facts. However, it was only the details that were changed, not the truth that they represented. Thus, an extract from Bert’s memoirs, describing the filthy conditions on his first night in detention, was turned into a letter to his mother. While this changed the format, the words were Bert’s own: “The stench of humanity and drunks was nothing to the crowning stench of a filthy latrine in the corner, of which the drain was choked and urine was seeping across the guardroom floor… I did not feel happy, nor that I was suffering in a noble cause.”

Questions and discussion after the play revealed that it had made a powerful impact on a number of viewers with little or no knowledge of resistance to World War One, a much overlooked aspect of the war’s history. I was privileged to be on the panel for the post-show discussion. Questioners were interested in all sorts of things: How many people had been conscientious objectors? What were they aiming for? How many died? And, most importantly, what relevance do they have today?

In the UK today, we are no longer directly conscripted to fight. Modern warfare needs money and technology, not endless numbers of people to fill trenches. But our minds are still enlisted in the ideology of militarism that permeates British society. Performances such as this one are a reminder of why conscientious objection – in so many senses – is vital.


Symon Hill is a member of FoR and a pacifist author, journalist and tutor. Symon has recently become coordinator of the Peace Pledge Union.

The play was part of a series of events marking 100 years since conscientious objection to conscription in Britain during WWI. They are organised by Commemorating the Peacemakers, a group of people representing FoR, Oxford Quakers and Movement for the Abolition of War.

The Relevance of the Cross – press release

Wombourne Good Friday procession 2016

“The relevance of the cross”

WOMBOURNE METHODIST CHURCH
PRESS RELEASE
For immediate publication

On Good Friday (25th March), thirty Christians from churches in Wombourne (in South Staffordshire) walked their witness to Christ. Starting from Wombourne Methodist Church they walked towards the village center as some of the group also carried protest banners such as “Justice for Palestine”; “The Wall must Fall”; “Make Peace, not War” and “Books not Bombs”. The Rev’d Christopher Collins said: “the cross is a very political symbol that is the result of Jesus’ stand against the empire. The banners made a link between the protest of the cross of Christ and modern day issues for which we still crucify Christ on earth today.” Importantly, the banners bore witness that the cross is for the very real issues that people face today.

As the procession reached the village center they were joined by many families who had been taking part in children’s banner making sessions in other churches in the village. The procession culminated in an open air service which attracted its largest crowd for some years.

END

Notes
1. Contact: The Rev’d Christopher Collins 07791 651418 / 01902 687635 / Christopher.collins@methodist.org.uk / 34 Bellencroft Gardens Wolverhampton. WV3 8DT

2. The caption for the photograph should read “Some of the group walking their witness outside St. Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Church. Photograph: Rev’d Nadene Snyman)

Peace Prayers

Have you got a favourite prayer for peace? Please share it here and mention where you found it.

To start us off, the Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

Add yours in the comments box below.

As they come in, they’ll be added to the “Pray for Peace” page in the Resources section.