May 15th – CO day

CO day banner cropped

It’s just two weeks away now; 15th May is the day we particularly remember Conscientious Objectors – those who refused to take up arms and kill their fellow human.

FoR is part of the First World War Peace Forum together with Pax Christi, Conscience, Network for Peace, WILPF, The Right to Refuse to Kill Group, PPU and QPSW.

The Forum has been collaborating to ensure a substantial counter-narrative to the commemorations the government is putting on.  It aims to tell the stories of the many people who did not support war in Europe.  In fact, these feelings of horror an wanting to do something about it is what starting FoR.

The event on 15th May is annual event when names are read out and flowers are laid on the Commemorative Stone in Tavistock Square, WC1 at 12pm.  This year there is a special focus on women who spoke out against war and its preparation, with talks from Mary Dobbing and representatives of the women who went to the Hague as peace delegates.  There will also be speeches on the plight of COs in the conflicts happening in the world today.

We hope people can join us for other events that day, as follows:

10.30am – Launch of Quaker online project ‘The White Feather Diaries’ – telling the stories of Quaker First World War COs – which will go live on 4 August 2014. Friends House, opposite Euston Station, NW1 2BJ

11.30am to 3pm there will be an exhibition in Friends House Library of rare artefacts and diaries belonging to imprisoned COs.

Media wishing to attend these Quaker events contact annev@quaker.org.uk – 0207 663 1048 or 07958 009703

4.30pm – launch of two books about the First World War conscientious objectors will take place in Friends House Library.

Comrades in Conscience: the story of an English Community’s Opposition to the Great War by Cyril Pearce (c.pearce@btinternet.com)

Objection Overruled: Conscription and Conscience in the First World War by David Boulton (Quaker History Society).

Fasting

Yesterday David Cameron was to receive a letter from dozens of bishops and hundreds of clergy saying that too many people are going hungry. Instead, they didn’t answer the door and the police turned up.

The witness started with an Agape service in Witney Methodist Church.

The witness started with an Agape service in Witney Methodist Church.

FoR has been supporting the End Hunger Fast campaign as a means to ending violence against those going without food in the 7th richest country in the 21st Century. Many people are just one bill away from not being able to afford groceries. Even if that’s not us today, we cannot be comfortable with allowing it to happen to our siblings. And if we are, as Martin Niemoller said,

 First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

As Christians we are called to serve, we are called to stand in solidarity and speak out loudly against injustice.

On 4th April there was the national day of fasting. FoR staff took part in it as well as the next Thursday as part of the fasting relay going on for the whole of Lent. It was unpleasant being hungry, but knowing when we would next eat was a great comfort. Some don’t have that luxury. Even just fasting for one day at a time felt very prayerful and let’s hope that, similar to Isaiah 58:3, the government will notice all these people speaking up for those going through difficult times.

Isn’t the fast I choose: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free Isaiah 58:6

There was an article in the Oxford Anglican although it doesn’t mention that they’d popped out for a pint of milk.

cameron office 1

For more info visit the campaign website.

GDAMS

14th April is the Global Day of Action on Military Spending.  We passed a delightful day in Oxford city centre with Pax Christi, talking to people about money being  wasted on renewing Trident (UK’s nuclear weapons) while services like healthcare are running dry and while little money is being invested in green energy, despite catastrophic climate change looming.

Through the use of buttons, we asked how people would rather redistribute the £40bn spent annually on defence.

GDAMS

A seesaw helped people grasp the concept of spending £100bn on useless illegal weapons rather than on the NHS.  One child suggested, “that’s an expensive seesaw”… well we hope we planted a few seeds.  We gave out postcards, asking people to write to their MPs; if the government knows we know how much they’re planning on spending in 2016 (having already spent £3bn on renewing Trident before being given the go-ahead), they might think twice.  We want to push for a really public debate on nuclear weapons and security.

It was striking how, on a day of engaging with locals about spending on welfare instead of nuclear weapons, three people came up to us asking where the nearest sheltered housing facility is.

For more information, go to http://demilitarize.org.uk/ and watch #demilarize and #movethemoney on twitter.

Of course, it wouldn’t be global if there hadn’t been events happening over the world; check out the map, or rather, plan of action.

See more photos at https://www.facebook.com/forepeace/photos_stream

End Hunger Fast. Tomorrow.

Britain isn’t eating.  Ian Duncan Smith got very upset when Church Action on Poverty created this picture, but it’s true.  Food banks are commonplace.  Needing to use a food bank, even more so.

What has this got to do with faith?

Jesus said that we will always have the poor with us.  He didn’t say we should comfortably accept that fact and get on with our lives.  In fact these days, it’s increasingly hard to comfortably get on, given that we could be one massive bill away from poverty and hunger ourselves.
End hunger fast image

Christians cannot sit idly by and watch people starve.  We should be shouting loudly about injustice, challenging it when we see it and asking questions when something seems wrong.

The government spends £2.5bn on fighter jets while ¼ of children in the UK live in poverty.

This has got to stop.

This Lent, people are going hungry.  This Lent, people are going hungry in solidarity with them and to send a clear message to the government that they need to sort things out.  They cannot make devastating cuts to the poor, protect the rich and expect to get away with it.  One person hasn’t eaten a thing since Ash Wednesday and hundreds – maybe thousands – will join them for the day of fasting tomorrow.  Here at FoR we’ve got staff doing the fast and tweeting a picture of their empty plate with #FastApril4th while sustaining ourselves using the facebook page and event for the day fast.

Austerity and hunger will only lead to conflict, more austerity and more hunger.  It’s unjust and it’s an act of violence.

This April 4th, go hungry with the hungry and pledge to End Hunger Fast.

 

Fly Kites Not Drones

If you were in town this weekend in Hastings, Norwich, Tavistock, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leicester, Cardiff, Coventry, Oxford, Brighton, Blackheath, Burlington, London, Southampton, Rochester, Lincoln, Littlehampton, Lewes or Bournemouth, you might have wondered why people were flying kites. That would be understandable.

Nao Roz is Afghan new year. Sadly, Afghans lives are being ruined through drone strikes and the imminent threat thereof. Many of these come from British forces (BIJ 2014).

Susan and child kites

More photos to follow

There are any things going on to resist and remind people of drone warfare. Civil disobedience, an all-party group, a quilt. The weekend of 21st-23rd March is a time to share with Afghans by flying kites in solidarity with them, to let them know that they are in our hearts, our thoughts and our actions.

In Oxford we held an event in the town centre, in Bonn Square by the peace plaque. FoR staff and members, Quakers, Catholic workers and Oxford CND came to fly kites and were met with joyous children. We talked to people, gave them flyers about drones and the wonderful Afghan Peace Volunteers, who talked to those flying kites at RAF Waddington.

For info on the other events taking place around the country, see the Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK website.

Oxford meeting is born

FoR oxford meeting

Thank you to those who came to Peace House last Thursday – our inaugural meeting was a great success. We were delighted to host Rana Salman from the Holy Land Trust, who talked about her experience of living in Bethlehem and what people are doing to resist violence.

We learnt that community, solidarity and planning for the future are key to the prospect of peace in the region. There are empowerment workshops for young women and leadership courses for young people of all genders, teaching how to lead using nonviolence as standard, so that future leaders can work better together and bring about more just systems of power.

Much of the proceeding Q&A session was spent discussing the home rebuilding project HLT carries out. Houses are frequently demolished by Occupation Forces, but a dedicated team, helped by visiting volunteers, can have a new one on the site in a fortnight. It is rare for these new houses to be knocked down again.  What stories of hope!

We are very grateful to Rana for the help she gave FoR throughout her week with us and wish her the very best for her vital work for peace and reconciliation.

Called to be Peacemakers conference

IMGP0483Our annual conference for YPN members, Called to be Peacemakers, was a great success.  It was run jointly with the Student Christian Movement this year and some 50 people attended.
Welcome to our new members!

The theme was Peace, Power and Protest: Prophets for a new world and our contributors included Christian CND,  QPSW and Operation Noah, among many others. Inderjit Bhogal was the keynote speaker, explaining to us how peace isn’t a destination, but the means to achieving reconciliation and to do so we must all have a dream.  That as Christians we are called to look for the good in others and to be different.  We were challenged indeed.

If you were there and would like to write a blog post about it, please do!  Send it to Emma and please include any photo you’d like to go up with it.

In the meantime, get involved: do something for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending on 14th April. To find out more about FoR, come to our Oxford meeting on 13th March at 7:30pm.

Visit to Brize Norton

The following was published in the Oxford Mail on Thursday, February 6th, following a protest by FoR and Oxford CND on the occasion of a drones summit between David Cameron and François Hollande.   Online article here.

Oxford Mail: site_logo

Why I stood in the rain for hours outside Brize Norton

5:00pm Thursday 6th February 2014
by Emma Anthony, Membership and Outreach Officer at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, England.

The reason I stood in the rain holding a bed sheet? Drones. There aren’t many topics, save Marmite, where very few sit on the fence. Either people think they’re an appalling invention, killing more people than we realise and terrorising people in Yemen, or they’re great because they save Our Boys (along with MoD money, cheaply training pilots who won’t need replacing).

Oxford Mail:

Protesters outside the main gate of RAF Brize Norton, left to right, Sarah Lasenby, Margaret Downs, Nigel Day and Emma Anthony

The UK and France have this funny relationship, but let’s not get into that. They’ve both signed a treaty to get rid of nuclear weapons but the UK government has already spent billions making the parts to renew Trident, our current nuclear arsenal, despite the vote on whether or not to renew it being in 2016. On top of this, at a time of huge cuts, austerity and job losses especially within local councils, our Prime MinisterDavid Cameron met with French President Francois Hollande at Brize Norton RAF base to make a deal on a new, more autonomous drone, at a cost of £120m to the taxpayer. I stood outside with a banner.

Oxford Mail:

Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande at the summit at RAF Brize Norton

Don’t get me wrong – I work for a non-violence organisation called the Fellowship of Reconciliation so I think we shouldn’t have any weapons, let alone scary autonomous humming killer robots. FoR is about promoting non-violence as the means to transforming conflicts. We campaign in the UK for disarmament, social, economic and political justice, and support groups doing this abroad through our International Peacemakers Fund.

So I was standing in the rain for a number of reasons. I don’t like weapons – they don’t get us anywhere. I don’t like drones – they’re not as accurate as we’re told (just check out our drones quilt – they kill thousands of civilians) and their mere presence over villages in places like Yemen and Pakistan causes huge psychological damage to the locals. They don’t just dislike the noise they make overhead, but they know there is a reasonable chance of getting killed as collateral damage, when buildings are attacked if they contain “targets” – people carrying something which looks like a weapon or acting “suspiciously”.

Huge quantities of money are being directed towards warfare and away from welfare. Developing weapons to fight wars we shouldn’t be having in faraway places is making enemies and reducing our security. Al-Qaeda have tried to justify two attacks in Yemem on the basis of drones being controlled from those compounds, including a hospital. Drones clearly do not reduce terrorism.

I am extremely worried about the actions of the Government at the moment. Not only are they ignoring warnings about catastrophic climate change (we can’t burn more than one fifth of conventional fossil fuel reserves), they are bulldozing ahead with plans to frack the living daylights out of the UK. The recent Lobbying Bill is giving greater power to corporations and less to charities in the year before the General Election. They are renewing Trident prematurely and in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

They constantly invite people back to the London Arms Fair who have been ejected for selling torture equipment, but have the peaceful protesters arrested. And the idea to convict people for “being annoying” – well, soon charities won’t be able to do anything at all.

I stood in the rain with my friends from Oxford Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament because I wanted Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande – and those passing by – to realise that we know they’re ignoring what matters – NHS, peace – and instead chasing profit regardless, and we shall not let them get away with it.

  • To find out more about FoR, go to our website at for.org.uk or come to Peace House at 7.30pm on Thursday, March 13, for a talk, Q&A and tea.
  • For more information on drones, visit dronewars.net

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Conference blog #8: Taking the Plunge

Amanda Kuehn is from Lincoln, Nebraska and studies creative writing at St Mary’s University in California. Read her reflections on daring to be a peacemaker; how it’s not that daunting really, and that we’d be surprised how things add up.  

“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

I am not a peacemaker. Sometimes I’d like to be (and maybe that is a start), but often the idea of becoming a peacemaker strikes me as sort of extreme – like becoming an environmentalist or a vegan. It seems to require actions and commitment that I’m not quite ready to make, that I’m not even sure I’m capable of making. Midweek meetings to discuss pro-active demonstrations. Weekends of attending conferences and leading seminars. Summers spent asking for donations and soliciting volunteers. Scary stuff if you ask me.

Now sometimes I want to be the sort of woman who soothes babies and comforts the heartbroken; who leads food drives, tutors at-risk teenagers, and raises money to stop human trafficking in her spare time. Truth be told, I probably have more spare time right now than I ever have or will at any other point in my life. I have no children to raise, no husband to care for. I don’t even have a full time job demanding that I be in one place from 9-5, five days a week. And yet I do not know if I can commit to this peacemaking business.

I feel like peacemakers are the people on the front lines, singing songs and picketing in protests, passing out pamphlets on street corners and donating all of their spare change to non-profit organisations based in countries I can’t even spell. That sort of perception is what keeps me from jumping into the deep end of the peacemaking pool.

But maybe peacemaking isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of thing. Maybe it’s something you can ease into, one choice at a time. I hear that’s the best way to make a change – little by little. Maybe pursuing peace doesn’t start by spending three months in the middle of Africa. Maybe it begins by forgiving my sister for hurting my feelings, by keeping an extra pair of socks in my car, or foregoing my morning coffee once a week and giving that $2 to the man standing on the central reservation.

Peace, like love, is a habit that is formed and re-enforced one choice at a time. By opening a door, offering a “thank you,” giving up a seat, talking to a stranger. Peace begins with the small things, the close things, the easy decisions that prepare us for the hard ones. I may not yet have the strength to host a stranger in my home, but I do have the capacity to buy her a sandwich. I may not be ready to quit my job and work for a non-profit, but I am capable of being a conversation partner once a week. This is how we prepare to plummet the depths of making peace, by opening our hearts and looking for opportunities, easing us in one step at a time.

For more of Amanda’s writing, visit her blog.

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Conference blog #7: Living out Peace

The seventh instalment of your YPN conference blog series is brought to you by Sarah Hine from the Darvell Community in Sussex. Here she describes every day protest for God and challenges us to live out the peace of Jesus.

Living Out Peace

It is easy to talk about peace when you live in a safe neighbourhood and have continual access to
food and water. But what if you have only known war and can’t remember the last time you ate a
good meal? Can peace be a reality in our world torn by war and emptied of hope? God is always in
control, despite the terror and catastrophe splashed across the headlines each day, He has a great
and wonderful plan for this earth.

True and lasting peace is not brought about by our human efforts but by God’s Spirit. Does that
mean we can relax and live our lives in heedless indifference while we wait for this to happen?
Absolutely not! If we consider ourselves to be followers of Jesus we must spend every day of our
lives working for peace in whatever way we can.

Jesus tells us: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.’
(John 14:27) If we want that peace we must be willing to live like He did. We have to follow Jesus’
example of unconditional and sacrificial love. It can be as simple as visiting an elderly neighbour,
giving a cup of water, feeding the poor or caring for a child. It may be forgiving someone who has
wronged us, speaking up for the oppressed, going the second mile when we would rather not budge
an inch, or simply saying sorry. The power of this world is built on selfishness, so every unselfish
deed we do is an act of protest. These actions must be rooted in a life of prayer, prayer for true
peace which is indeed the Kingdom of God on this earth. In fact, anything we do for others can be a
prayer, whether we realise it or not.

The Kingdom of God is not just a glorious future when the whole world will be at peace. It can break
into our lives at any moment, filling our hearts with unexplainable peace even in the most difficult
circumstances. A life of forgiving, loving and caring for others is prophetic because it exemplifies the
Kingdom of God.

Find out more about community at Darvell on their website.

Book for the conference.