A Declaration of Peace
At our spiritual roots, and from the earliest of times, we of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) have chosen nonviolent means of resolving conflict and achieving peace. We see that of God in every person, and so cannot kill or support the killing of others.
We believe that every conflict can be resolved nonviolently, when we gear our creative energies and resources towards finding peaceful solutions. We know from our own experience of worship that even the most divisive issues can be resolved when we listen for divine guidance. In the silence, new ways open before us that may not have been visible previously.
We have no enemies. We believe that every person has the potential for transformation. Peacemaking entails risking ourselves, overcoming our fears and crossing borders. In an era of an announced "war on terror," and so-called "pre-emptive war," we are not at war.
Nonviolence is an active process, which might take the form of dialogue with an opposing side, civil resistance against an unjust authority, or patient work through a system of law. Early intervention is needed for nonviolent methods to be most effective. Prejudice and bigotry, economic inequality, resource domination, and other injustices must be rooted out before they escalate into open hostility. Particular care must be taken after a conflict to rebuild infrastructure and to renew relationships to prevent future conflict.
Nonviolence does not always achieve justice in the short run. As in war, innocent people may suffer. Yet when nonviolent methods are most successful, they often go unnoticed, since conflict is averted. We will never know, for instance, if the quiet, persistent work of the African Great Lakes Initiative -- which has brought together survivors and perpetrators of genocide in dozens of trauma and healing workshops -- actually has prevented a renewal of violence in Rwanda and Burundi. We know that it has transformed individuals.
Modern warfare inflicts suffering on innocent victims who are considered "collateral damage;" it devastates infrastructure on which a civilian population depends; it poisons the environment, littering landmines, depleted uranium and other hazards which remain long after the battlefield has been returned to an agricultural field. Moreover, war trains people to be killers; it leaves psychological scars on those who have experienced suffering and on those who have inflicted it. It fundamentally breaks trust, fracturing relationships beyond repair.
Advocating the abolition of war may seem folly, or it may be visionary. Our forebears who set about to abolish the institution of slavery were mocked for their efforts. Yet they succeeded, first in abolishing it in our own Society, and then working with others to abolish it in our nation and world. Similarly, we are committed to rooting out violence in every facet of our lives: in our family relationships, our communities response to crime, our stewardship of the earth, and our foreign policies. Our goal is to bring forth the peaceful kingdom of God here now on Earth.
Saint Louis Monthly Meeting
Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
Saint Louis, Missouri, USA
February 12, 2006