Q&A with Quaker Peace & Social WitnessBy Administrator
Our Q&A series continues as the staff of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, our current beneficiary in the Peace category, answer questions submitted by our members.
Q What is the single greatest need of QPSW in the field? Is it people, resources, governmental support, security, something else? – Amanda S., Kansas City, Missouri
A We need all the aspects you mention to implement our projects effectively, although some are easier to find than others. We have been lucky to identify many talented and committed people to work with us in the field, and we take security issues very seriously, delivering quality preparation programmes for our staff working in high risk environments, devising exit strategies, a chain of support and so on.
We don’t necessarily work with governments; in fact more often we are working on the ground with grass-roots movements, other faith-based groups, or partners who share our commitment to the Quaker testimonies of peace, equality, truth and simplicity, and challenging or lobbying governments.
In reality our greatest need is for financial resources, currently harder to come by because of the current economic climate in the UK. The more funding we have, the more work we can do, and we are thus enabled to plan longer term support in environments which can benefit from our presence, the safe haven we often create where dialogue can emerge in the place of violence, and hence the promotion of peace.
Project Development Manager
Q Do Quaker theists and non-theists co-exist fairly peacefully? – Lisa W.
A Quakerism has always been about a shared journey of witness and of seeking the truth together rather than a rigid set of beliefs. Whilst much Quaker writing, with its roots in the Christian tradition, speaks of ‘God’ and ‘the Divine’ individual Quakers are free to interpret and understand this language in the way that is most helpful and meaningful to them. The dialogue between theist and non-theist Quakers, over recent decades, has not always been comfortable or easy, as people express deep personal convictions about something that is at once so personal and so profound. This dialogue – with all its difficult tensions – has been held within the Quaker practice of listening with love and humility to each other’s ideas and insights. We are called to ‘Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you’ and to ‘Think it possible that you may be mistaken’ (Advices and Queries 17). It is in this listening that a positive, helpful and creative way forward is both sought and found.
Quaker Life General Secretary
Q I’ve been impressed with the Quaker approach to peacebuilding, addressing (to quote your web site) “the core conditions that lead to violent conflict.” Can you tell me a little about how QPSW has done this in East Africa and whether you see the prospect of a lasting impact from your work there? – Kabir T., New York City
A Guided by the notion that there is that of God in everyone, Quakers in East Africa bring “enemies” together, to encounter the humanity in the other. While this work toward individual transformation is powerful African Quakers have invited QPSW to help them link this work with efforts to make structural change in order for their efforts to have a lasting impact. In Kenya, we are working with grassroots activists and peacebuilders to help them develop skills in active nonviolence so that they can speak out strongly and effectively against injustices without resorting to violence.
In Burundi, we send volunteers to support peace organisations that are working toward the healing of trauma, conflict transformation, and advocacy efforts, since we believe that recovery from war is inextricably linked with the building of sustainable peace. In Northern Uganda, we work with people who were abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and are now back in their home communities struggling with the complexities of having been both victim and perpetrator.
With each of these efforts, we are dedicated to the notion that every person has a legitimate voice, and that only when marginalized voices are truly heard can we make significant progress toward a peaceful world.
Laura Shipler Chico
Programme Manager for East Africa
Q It’s interesting (and good) that you include climate change as a peace programme. Can you speak to that? – Geoff H., Blackpool
A For Quakers peace is about a lot more than the absence of violence – it’s about positive relationships between people and the world that enable both humanity and the planet to flourish. We are not at peace when one community’s way of life prevents another’s from thriving, or when our actions now diminish the quality of other’s lives in the future. Climate change is therefore a major threat to peace.
Our lifestyles (in the west) are causing environmental and ecological crisis, the impacts of which are being felt most acutely by the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. Many in Bolivia, for example, are already experiencing extreme changes in the weather, leading to the destruction of crops and threatening traditional livelihoods. In some parts of the world the impact of climate change on access to land, food, and water is leading to conflict, which may sometimes be violent.
Quakers think that it is not possible to have peace without justice or equality. It is not just that continuing consumerism depends on rich countries using more than their fair share of the world’s resources and releasing more pollution than the atmosphere can absorb. Nor that those who have had made the least contribution to climate change suffer its effects the most. For Quakers, living peacefully should include finding ways to live that minimise our carbon footprints. Quaker Peace and Social Witness’s Sustainability and Peace programme aims to do this by supporting Quakers in Britain to understand the connections between climate change and peace and to live in more sustainable ways.
QPSW Sustainability and Peace Programme