“Do you uphold those who are acting under concern, even if their way is not yours? Can you lay aside your own wishes and prejudices while seeking with others to find God’s will for them?”
Quaker-related documents and multimedia
Peace Lecture to Elinor (PDF file).
From Peace News December 2012-January 2013
UK Peace Delegation to Afghanistan
By Emily Johns and Milan Rai
Building on her successful solidarity visit to Afghanistan a year ago (see PN 2542), British peace activist Maya Evans is to lead the first group delegation of British peace activists to Afghanistan in the New Year.
The Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK delegation will be hosted by the Afghan Peace Volunteers (see PN2527), who are organising ‘2 Million Friends for peace in Afghanistan’. The 2 Million Friends campaign culminates on 10 December, UN Human Rights Day, when the Afghan Peace Volunteers will present the United Nations with a petition calling on the UN to negotiate a total ceasefire in Afghanistan.
The 2 Million Friends letter says: ‘We strongly urge the United Nations to broker a ceasefire in Afghanistan. We ask the United Nations to call on all the parties in conflict, including competing warlords and the Taliban, the Karzai government, regional players and NATO, to lay down their weapons.’
As PN went to press, with over a fortnight to go, over 3,700 supporters from around the world had signed the letter on the 2millionfriends.org website, and 1,200 people had ‘liked’ their page on Facebook.
Voices for Creative Nonviolence (US) will be holding a seven-day liquids-only fast, led by long-time US activist Kathy Kelly, in New York from 11-17 December. Every day, fasters will gather outside the UN building from 11am-1pm.
The British group going to Afghanistan has been organised by a new group, Voices for Creative Non-Violence UK (VCVN UK), which hopes to take further delegations to the country.
The all-women delegation will have a special focus on the situation of Afghan women. One member, Susan Clarkson, has grown to know several Afghan asylum seekers during their stays with the Oxford Catholic Worker (for the full story, see p6),
Maya Evans has published a pamphlet about her visit to Afghanistan a year ago. Members of the new delegation hope to produce a book and a film, partly as a result of their two-week visit.
Since her previous delegation, Maya has spoken to 30 groups around the country and raised over £1,700 for the Kabul Winter Appeal (see p3). Members of this delegation will be speaking around the country on their return.
While they are in Afghanistan, the group may be able to join in a Global Day of Listening, when the Afghan Peace Volunteers host an international Skype conversation with people from around the world. There is a Global Day of Listening on the 21st of every month – on the website you can hear a recording of activist and author Noam Chomsky speaking to the group (excerpt in PN 2530).
Mary Dobbing of Horfield Quaker Meeting will be one of the five women forming this delegation.
Bristol Quakers’ Statement on Occupy Bristol
David Mowat and Tony Weekes
A dead religious sect have left a stylish relic, Quakers Friars, as the back drop for a restaurant in a brand new retail complex. That this image risks sticking in the public eye if we don’t act to show both our liveliness and our questioning of consumerism is what prompted Friends from Central Meeting (built to replace Quakers’ Friars in the 1960s) to stage a public debate in Quaker Week. Attendance was boosted by the favourable publicity given after some Friends were turfed off the privatised pavement by Quakers’ Friars for unauthorised leafleting.
Cabot Circus, Bristol’s new £500M shopping centre, opened at the end of September 2009. The retail businesses and restaurants are aimed at the affluent customer, (designer hand bags going for £2,000) but the centre also sees social responsibility as part of its task, promising training and employment opportunities to people living in the adjacent deprived areas of the city. It means, in the City Council’s words “ … more Bristol jobs for Bristol people, and increased trade for Bristol businesses …”
Entitled ‘Cabot Circus; New found land or same old fare?’ the meeting had two speakers: James Bailey, the Centre manager and Tony Weekes, Ferguson Fellow at Woodbrooke Quaker Studies Centre.
James Bailey shared some of his own history: how his time as porter and later manager in the NHS had sharpened his understanding of people and their needs. He explained how Bristol ranked second in ‘the profitability stakes’ in the UK yet until now was only eleventh in ‘retail ranking’. He stressed the developer’s awareness of the ecological, social and economic needs of our time, emphasising the un-heated but covered walk ways and recycled rain water. He seemed responsive to comments and criticism – around the lack of cycle racks for instance.
Tony Weekes offered criteria by which the audience might judge Cabot Circus as an example of urban renewal. In the words of Fritjof Capra: “… The great challenge of our time is to build sustainable communities – communities that are designed in such a way that their ways of life, businesses, economies, physical structures, and technologies do not interfere with nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. … The ecosystems of the natural world are sustainable communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms. There is no waste in these ecological communities, one species’ waste being another species’ food. …. The energy driving these ecological cycles flows from the sun, and the diversity and cooperation [is] the source of the community’s resilience.Emphasising the dwindling inheritance of fossil fuel whilst sunlight is plentiful, Tony said “Our dependence on nature’s inherent ability to sustain life is something which is scarcely recognised; there are no substitutes for these services (clean water, air, soil etc)…Conviviality – literally, living together in harmony - requires us to value each other and to see our needs beyond ‘shopping’. We need places to meet and places for quiet and for recreation. In this context, ‘scale’ and the aesthetic are important”.
Listening to the two distinct speakers, it was hard to find to see Cabot Circus coming up to the Capra mark. On the one hand, in the centre manager’s optimistic assessment we have ‘business as usual’ with new technology as an add-on to minimise environmental damage. On the other hand we have a call to seriously limit human impact, which Cabot Circus is designed precisely to increase on the disproved assumption that greater material wealth makes us better able to tackle environmental problems.However the debate albeit modestly, showed a way ahead. Communication is now more open with the previously faceless –and powerful- retail developer. The audience were interested in how the rest of Bristol’s city centre, much of it also owned by the developers could go. Smaller more affordable retail units opening to local firms? A convivial continental atmosphere not dependant on buying?
Some of us carried on in the pub across the road. With Quakers having made an opening, perhaps there is a way to influence the developers, rather than simply demonise them? Over a pint, James Bailey mentioned the power Cabot Circus management have, for example, to insist on reduced waste and product packaging with their tenants.
Progress happens when lofty sentiments meet the nitty gritty. Tony’s comments helped our way towards this - and he’s available to do so for your Meeting (firstname.lastname@example.org). Once, Quakers were involved in business and good at the detail. Can we be so again?
(Last update: June 19, 2016)