Wednesday 6 January 2016

Faith, Power and Peace

Friends - a short holiday from the more traditional theme of this blog as I wanted to share my experiences from some courses related to peace, non violence and militarism.

Last May Diana Francis gave the Swarthmore Lecture, an annual lecture given at the national yearly meeting of Quakers in Britain. She gave it on the theme, Faith, Power and Peace. You can listen to her lecture here.

I sat and listened, and for me it was an experience that I am struggling to find ways to describe – it felt like I was alone in a room and Diana was talking directly to me, I remember it finishing and suddenly becoming aware of this room filled to the edges with Friends.

I feel very blessed to have been able to support Diana Francis and Steve Whiting from Turning the Tide as they put together 3 courses for Woodbrooke building on the themes for the lecture.

  • ·         Violence, Non Violence and the Power to Transform
  • ·         From Militarisation to Peace
  • ·         Speaking up Speaking Out.

There are quite a few upsides to my job, but these three courses and the experience of watching Diana and Steve work together was one I feel very lucky to have had.

Three courses gave us the opportunity to look at the themes in some depth, and to build close relationships among participants; we had some attend all three courses and some attend one or two.
I learnt a lot over these weekends, not just about what we mean by peace and the dynamics of peace and power but I learnt about myself and I learnt about groups and how they work.

One participant commented the preparation for these courses was the lifetime witness of these Friends. This was so evident to me, they shared some of their life and their ministry in peace making with us over these courses. We do have an excellent opportunity at Woodbrooke for Friends to share a little of their passion and love with us and I am full of gratitude.

What will I take away from these courses? What did I learn?

I learnt about the importance of process; of setting ground rules and following them, of managing expectations but allowing for flexibility and to be surprised by something.

I learnt that to look at peace ‘out there’ I must look at peace inside of me; to acknowledge the way I am, the culture I have grown up in, the power dynamics I am used to.

It was a reminder of how little I know about current situations aside from what I hear from mainstream media, and acknowledging this is only one part of the picture.

I kept on coming back to the need to unpick the dominant narrative and to tackling the persistent untruths.

But perhaps the most important message I could take was that these issues I care about, militarism, climate change, economic justice – it’s not enough for me to say I care about them, I need to do something about it. My response won’t be the same as yours, we will all find our own way to speak and act in response to these issues but these experiences of coming together to share, to learn, to listen and to find ways of acting are precious. 

These courses have reawakened my mind to the rising tide of militarism in our society, perhaps for a world that is preparing for a world in which resources are scarce and we feel we need to defend or fight for access. If as Friends, our experience leads us to an understanding that each ‘is unique, precious, a child of God’ then we need to do something.

The next event Woodbrooke is holding on Militarisation is in February 2016 – looking at Militarisation in our schools, in the media and in our community. If you would like to join us, details are here

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