Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Arms are for hugging

I’ve hesitated in putting up this post because I don’t want you to think I am proselytizing. I’m not. All I am doing is telling you what I’ve been doing, and what’s on my mind – just as I always do on my blog.

I went on a peace vigil on Saturday.

peace vigil 2

A bunch of us from Bakewell Quaker Meeting stood in silence in the rain for an hour, holding placards, and people walked past us with varying degrees of puzzlement, embarrassment, encouragement, interest, and apathy.

Some of the placards were just about peace:


Some were against the arms trade:


Why did we bother, when everyone except arms dealers wants peace?

In this week before Remembrance Sunday we wanted to suggest alternatives to war.

Quakers have a handful of guiding principles, which we call testimonies, and one of them is the peace testimony.

The Quaker peace testimony is not just about refusing to fight. It also means working for peace. Just a few examples of Quaker peace initiatives are -  working to resolve conflicts, both local (as in Northern Ireland) and international (as at the United Nations); working towards peace and social justice in all kinds of settings through non-violent social change; and providing relief work in war zones. The work done by Quakers in World War II – for example through the Friends Ambulance Unit – brought them a Nobel Peace Prize in 1947.

I have demonstrated in the past against nuclear weapons and against specific wars such as the Iraq war, both in London

make tea not war

and in San Francisco.

Me in heavy disguise

(That’s how I met the Aging Hippie.)

But it’s only lately I have been actually thinking about pacifism itself.

Being a fifth generation Quaker with a father and grandfather who were conscientious objectors, pacifism is in my genes. It’s always been as obvious an ideal as kindness and honesty.

It’s easy being a pacifist when your father has not been taken out and shot, your sister is not being raped, and no-one is threatening to burn down your house. And in any one of these situations I don’t know how I would react.

But in the situations I do find myself in, I try to do what I think is right. That’s it.

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