Press release: “All life is sacred. Wear a white poppy” says Christian charity

poppies-for-minAll Christians should wear white poppies during Remembrance, says a leading ecumenical peace charity.

In a week when white poppies in schools hit the headlines, the Fellowship of Reconciliation said that Christians should care equally about everyone impacted by conflict.  Red poppies only remember British soldiers and those who fought alongside them, whereas white poppies are in memory of all those affected by war.

“If we believe that all life is sacred and we are all God’s children, we should be holding everyone in our prayers”, said Oliver Robertson from the Fellowship of Reconciliation.  “The Royal British Legion says that it advocates a specific type of Remembrance connected to the British Armed Forces, but Christians don’t just care about people from their country.  That’s why we say that white poppies are the Christian thing to wear at Remembrance, with or without a red poppy alongside.”

As well as being a symbol of remembrance for all victims of wars, past and present, white poppies also demonstrate a commitment to peace and a rejection of attempts to glamourise war.

“We have been disturbed by the change in emphasis of Remembrance over the last couple of decades, from ‘never again’ to ‘support our troops’”, said Oliver Robertson. “This does nothing to stop more people dying in conflicts, which – as anyone who has been at the sharp end of war will tell you – is a horrible, terrifying, dehumanising experience.”

The Fellowship of Reconciliation has prepared prayers for peace that can be used on or around Remembrance Sunday, as well as information on its website about how and where to buy white poppies.

Who Do You Think You’re FoR?

The latest edition of BBC celebrity genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are? featured TV and radio presenter Fearne Cotton. Part of the show has her discovering about her great-grandfather’s conscientious objection during World War One, and includes materials from the CO register that was jointly held by FoR, the Quakers and the (now-defunct) No-Conscription Fellowship.

So, to hear about the sacrifices made by people for their beliefs and to see a little bit of FoR fame, watch the show in BBC iPlayer here until 23rd September 2017.

Scottish vigil on Hiroshima Day

The Hiroshima vigil at St. Anne’s Church, Dunbar, with an Italian Peace flag

The Hiroshima vigil at St. Anne’s Church, Dunbar, with an Italian Peace flag

It is 72 years ago that the first atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. The vigil service held at the Peace Pole in the grounds of St. Anne’s Episcopal/Methodist Church, Dunbar, commemorated those who died and witnessed to the continuing need for peace, disarmament and reconciliation.

The vigil on August 6th was supported by members of other churches in Dunbar. The Rev. Diana Hall, the new Rector of St. Anne’s, welcomed those who came.

The words of Pope Francis were read, calling on humanity to reject war for ever and to ban nuclear weapons. The peace flag on the photograph has the Italian for Peace (Pace).

Thanks were given for the recent United Nations Treaty approved by 122 countries outlawing nuclear weapons and prayers said that our nation would sign up to the Treaty.

The vigil ended with prayers for peace between countries, with North Korea and the USA being named, for peace between people and for inner peace.

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 available here. A video of keynote speaker Lucas Johnson is available here

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

poppies-for-minOn this page:
Resisting militarism around Remembrance
A prayer for Remembrance
Getting a white poppy

Armistice Day: Saturday 11th November
Remembrance Sunday: 12th November

As pacifists, we mourn 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 peacemakers give a concerted push during November, when militaristic commemorations are at their loudesr. We examine the way in which 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

Resisting militaristism around Remembrance

We must remember those killed in war. Often, though, our memorials and ceremonies forget, or deliberately omit, 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 as being a superior type 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 and allied militaries have killed. We must mourn all of their deaths, as they’re all victims of violent, militarised societies.

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.

A prayer for Remembrance:

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 to peace.
Lead us along your path to peace,
Help us when the  pressure to conform grows strong
And to question easy answers and scapegoating over
social,  political, or economic  problems.

Make us channels of your peace.

In Jesus name,

Amen

White Poppies

White poppies are to remember all victims of all wars. They symbolise a commitment to challenge militarism and work to prevent further wars. You can get yours from FoR by calling 01865 250781 or fill in the form below.  Suggested donation for a poppy: £2 including p&p then 80p for each additional poppy. (Orders over 25 poppies, best to get them direct from the Peace Pledge Union)

For donations below £5, send a cheque or CAF voucher, 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

White poppy order form

 

Verification

 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 Remembrance for upper primary and lower secondary pupils.

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.