FoR began as a response to the horrors of war in Europe, as nonviolent resistance to the huge arms race and subsequent killing of millions of people.
On the eve of the First World War, the former chaplain to the German Kaiser, a Lutheran called Friedrich Siegmund-Schültze b.1885 and an English Quaker, Henry Hodgkin (pictured) parted at Cologne Station with the words, “We are one in Christ and can never be at war”. Henry Hodgkin, followed up this commitment by organising a conference (attended by 130 Christians of all denominations) in Cambridge in December 1914. It was here that the visionary statement, known as the Basis of the Fellowship (see below), was drafted. By November 1915, over 1,500 members were meeting in 55 local branches in the UK.
Siegmund-Schültze was put before a military tribunal for his stance. He was condemned to death, but on production of a letter of support for his views from the Kaiser, was instead offered a post in the German Ministry of Information – which he refused. Henry Hodgkin went on to be the first director of Pendle Hill in the USA. FoR in England is a member of the international fellowship which grew out of this initial meeting 100 years a go.
FoR has had some very inspiring members. This lexicon of leaders within the Fellowship shows how rich and diverse a movement it has been over the past century.
Basis of FoR
(written in 1914, hence the gendered language – we’re working on this!)
- That love as revealed and interpreted in the life and death of Jesus Christ, involves more than we have yet seen, that is the only power by which evil can be overcome and the only sufficient basis of human society.
- That, in order to establish a world-order based on Love, it is incumbent upon those who believe in this principle to accept it fully, both for themselves and in relation to others and to take the risks involved in doing so in a world which does not yet accept it.
- That therefore, as Christians, we are forbidden to wage war, and that our loyalty to our country, to humanity, to the Church Universal, and to Jesus Christ our Lord and Master, calls us instead to a life-service for the enthronement of Love in personal, commercial and national life.
- That the Power, Wisdom and Love of God stretch far beyond the limits of our present experience, and that He is ever waiting to break forth into human life in new and larger ways.
- That since God manifests Himself in the world through men and women, we offer ourselves to His redemptive purpose to be used by Him in whatever way He may reveal to us.
The Basis is an expression of general agreement and was never intended to be a fixed form of words. FoR members today live by this set of principles, as relevant today as 102 years ago.
Since its inception, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and its members have worked towards a peaceful world through nonviolent action in many ways:
- Prepared a joint paper (in 1914) with other faith groups, trade unions, and others during the first world war which paved the way for a new vision of Europe – which today is recognised as the European Union
- Rescued Jews and other political refugees fleeing Nazism in the 1940’s (André and Magda Trocmé, with the help of the villagers of le Chambon sur Lignon, saved thousands) (France)
- Worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Montgomery bus boycott, and held workshops in nonviolence throughout the South of the US. (FoR USA).
- Worked with the War Resisters International to make sure that conscientious objection was a legal right in most European countries. The fact that conscientious objection is a recognised civil right today in Britain, and has been since the start of the Great War, is partly due to FoR members. (You can read about this on the Peace Pledge Union website)
- Sought to reverse the Cold War and the arms race with campaigns, marches, educational projects and civil disobedience in the 1970’s.
- Called (with others) for an ‘ecological imperative’ at its Dai Dong (Chinese for ‘A world of great togetherness’) conference in Stockholm and for a mass environmental movement in the 1970’s
- Through training, helped end the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines in the 1980’s
- Led a joint campaign which saw the closure of the UK’s Defence Export Services Organisation (Wikipedia entry).
- Six of our members are, or were, Nobel Peace Prize laureates [Jane Addams (1931), Emily Green Balch (1946), Chief Albert Luthuli (1960), Dr. Martin Luther King (1964), Mairead Corrigan-Maguire (1976), Adolfo Perez Esquivel (1980)].
- IFOR has observer and consultative status to the United Nations; especially its ECOSOC and UNESCO organizations.